Dhani Harrison and company's second album plays things too safely.
Martin Aston 2012-09-20
Anyone named after the sixth and seventh note of the Indian music scale ('dha' and 'ni') probably has interesting and musical parents. Thenewno2 lynchpin Dhani Harrison’s dad is late Beatle George, which explains not just his visual resemblance to dad but also the predilection for gently weeping melody and Beatles-y texture. Though this music’s spacious electronic detail, and the role of multiple guest singers, are very much evidence of a post-Beatles climate.
Thefearofmissingout – Dhanilikestoeradicatethespacebetweenwords – is Thenewno2’s second album, following 2009’s You Are Here, but the first as a band (Paul Hicks, Jonathan Sadoff, Jeremy Faccone, Nick Fyffe and Frank Zummo make six). Dhani probably fears the obvious comparisons (if he’d only stuck to his original career choice as an aerodynamicist), in which case, let’s limit them to the way Wide Awake entwines While My Guitar Gently Weeps with Portishead-ian drama.
Timezone has an aura of Radiohead, but the references that apply most to Dhani Harrison are Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur, who he formed Fistful of Mercy with in 2010. The three of them share a predilection for a studio-honed fusion of soul, electronica and AOR – artful, sure, but sometimes stifled by over-embellishment in the studio. Take the lithe, six-minute Staring Out To Sea, where Harper guests alongside Beck associate Thorunn Magnusdottir – it simply doesn’t possess enough tension or twists to justify its length.
Magnusdottir is the favoured guest here; but her other two slots, The Number and Hanging On, exemplify the album’s shortcomings. They’re solid, expertly layered, thoughtful and artful, but lack an outright identity to separate Dhani’s music from a herd of technically sussed musos.
Against the odds, given the potential soundclash-mash with guest stars RZA and Wu-Tang associates The Black Knights, The Wait Around stands right out – sleek, urgent and hook-lined, it suggests Harrison has a future in pop. If that rippling guitar in The Number is his, then he’s a shoo-in for mainstream rock fans; but many other signs indicate he wants something more. Fewer Pro Tool and more risks, and Dhani might just be onto something.