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Charlie Simpson Young Pilgrim Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

The ex-Busted man searches for further credibility in fine folkish style.

Fraser McAlpine 2011

Every former pop star carries a certain amount of embarrassment, bordering on guilt, about their past life. Some worry that their public persona is a reductive and silly mask that no longer fits; others act like it’s the morning after a particularly wild party and they’re not entirely sure why they did the things they did, or to whom they should apologise.

Charlie Simpson has worn his pop past with Busted like a hairshirt, ever since he walked out of the band in favour of his post-hardcore project Fightstar, the credible alternative to his teenybopper day job. It’s a shame that he feels like this as both bands have had their moments, and he’s clearly a gifted singer and songwriter.

And there's no need for him to further expunge his past by bringing out a singer-songwriter album of beefy, folkish indie confessionals, which could, in their own AOR way, prove to be a worse crime against music than Year 3000 or Floods ever were.

Young Pilgrim is a side project, the result of Charlie having a bit of time on his hands and a bunch of songs that won’t fit his current musical brief. So having temporarily turned his back on calling down the very heavens with Fightstar, he’s re-entered the world where melody is king, but still brings that sense of overwhelming gravitas with him.

There’s a lot of walking streets alone, blisters cracking over skin, melancholy trips to childhood haunts, and a lot of soul-searching: classic singer-songwriter fare. Thankfully, our hero has two important things on his side: a robust way with a tune and a swag-bag rammed with glorious multi-tracked harmonies. Cemetery, Suburbs and I Need a Friend Tonight are resplendent with his many voices. Even the incredibly Script-ish Hold On is partially redeemed by a few careful multi-Charlie moments.

The result, while it lacks anything which is truly astonishing, is a very grown-up sort of pop music – think Lonestar with a Snow Patrol frosting – and could possibly be the final public atonement for crimes that only he believes he committed in the first place. 

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