I must say, I do enjoy the manly manliness of Marcus Foster’s voice, all gravel and phwoar.
An occasionally overwhelming range of influences and musical experimentation are what make Foster’s first full-length album exciting, but also what can make it sound confused. It feels as if he is almost tripping over himself, (the frantic energy in the opening tracks make this genuinely plausible) to pay homage to as many musical greats as he possibly can, from Tom Petty to Neil Young to contemporary folksters like Marcus Mumford and Fionn Reagan.
The defiant, classic rock numbers illicit head nods and hip shakes a-plenty, the highlight for me being Shadows of the City with its Waits-esque bluesy screeches. But there are undeniably moments when, despite their evident heart and soul, the songs become tiring to listen to; consistently loud and with frequent lyrical repetition, there is a danger of his sound becoming too much of a uniform wall, instead of the intricate balance of influence and ingenuity that it is supposed to be. ‘Contrived’ is the word being bandied about amongst critics of this album and, to a certain extent, I can see where they’re coming from. However, the ambition and commitment with which Foster has approached the record leaps forth from every track, and he deserves kudos for having the courage to incorporate so much into just one record. Indeed, there is so much to absorb as a listener that, unfortunately, it may end up counting against him.
Amongst these texturally dense and musically eclectic tracks lurk some calmer, meditative songs, which Foster pulls off with far more success. You My Love and I Don’t Mind are beautiful, thoughtful and authentic songs; it would be wonderful to see Foster exploring this side of his creative output in the future, whilst simply allowing his evident talent to infiltrate the more experimental aspect of his musical personality.