Grandaddy of filmic funk shows young guns how it’s done
In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Barry Adamson has charted some fairly diverse waters. He brought a rumbling, avant garde bass edge to jagged new wavers Magazine, lent new romantics Visage a mysterious sheen of funked-up cool and comfortably planted himself among Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds for a tenure spanning most of their career-pinnacle albums, including 2013’s ‘Push The Sky Away.’
With his first few solo albums, 1989’s ‘Moss Side Story’ and the Mercury-nominated ‘Soul Murder’, he perfected a distinctive noir-ish, cinematic style that soon became a blueprint for legions of trip hoppers and effectively set the template for one of the 90s defining soundscapes. These “soundtracks to imaginary films” had such a seismic impact that Hollywood soon came a-knocking, commissioning Adamson to work on actual real-life movie scores, including the likes of ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘Natural Born Killers.’
‘Know Where To Run’ is Adamson’s first release in four years and things get off to a promising start with ‘Texas Crash’, a rattling runaway skiffle of urgent slide guitar scrabblings that morphs into a sublime collage of bayou brass and police sirens towards its frenetic conclusion, like The KLF’s ‘Last Train To Trancentral’ remade in serious cactus country. ‘Claw And Wing’ opens with a Scott Walker-ish croon, but soon veers into glossy, radio-friendly fare that has you wondering as to the present whereabouts of The Christians, while his penchant for dramatically elongated vows and fire and brimstone preacherman lyrical histrionics on ‘Come Away’, shows him wearing the influence of his old mucker Nick Cave’s excesses rather too readily.
He still has a winning pulp fiction writer’s ear with words and a certain Heston Blumenthal-like bravura for mashing-up musical styles though – see ‘Death Takes A Holiday’ for instance, a shimmying Latin rumbler, where he somehow manages to conjure up the twin ghosts of The The’s ‘Infected’ and the rather less hallowed terrain of Matt Bianco.
Maybe it’s all tongue in cheek and I’m missing the point. I have to concede that at times his hard-boiled swagger is impossible to resist, as on swamp gumbo stomper ‘Cine City’, which trills with Persian spy-theme mandolins, but then he deadpans a line that even Danny Dyer would struggle to keep a straight face delivering: “I spy / With my little eye / Something beginning with FBI.”
That’s not to say there aren’t moments of widescreen wonder. It’s worth wallowing in the extravagant outro to ‘Evil Kind’, all screeching guitars and rippling piano lines, and instrumental stormer ‘In Other Worlds’ builds into an impressively ominous layer cake of Halloween organ, doomy synth stabs and skittish drum ’n’ bass percussion.
Ultimately, ‘Know Where to Run’ feels like an overly ambitious genre film that leans uncomfortably close to low budget gangster Britflick patische a little too often. All the chatter of double-crossing and red fingerprints doesn’t help. Still Adamson has the brass baddabings to rhyme “telly” with “legs turning to jelly” on this one, so perhaps he’s laughing with us, but maybe it’s time he comes out with his hands up.