It's been four years since the last solo album from Ashcroft, the former lead singer for the Verve. That might be the reason that Ashcroft chooses to open United Nations of Sound with "Are You Ready?," a dense and layered groove that sounds very much like it could be a lost Verve track. But that's about it as to any homage to the old days; true to the album's title Ashcroft is here to try different things. Maybe an indication of how Ashcroft feels after a few year's hiatus, "Born Again" is a radio-friendly pop-rocker with an uplifting beat to go with its uplifting message, made all the brighter by a chorus of 60's-ish "na na na's." "How Deep is Your Man?" borrows the famous John Lee Hooker rhythm but when the chorus comes around it's time for pure psychedelic soul; "Royal Highness" also pilfers a vintage sound, drawing it's inspiration from Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane." The less-interesting songs here ("Glory," "She Brings Me the Music") still fall short of being throwaways thanks to Ashcroft's vocal styling and they're more than made up for with absolute gems like "Beatitudes," a throbbing dance-rocker featuring an orchestration-and-psych guitar melody, an irresistible beat and a hypnotic play-on-words chorus that's brought about by an intentional mispronunciation of 'beatitudes,' "These are the beat-a-tudes/This is the gospel truth." Like the meaning of the word, no matter how you say it, this album is mostly blissful.
Richard Ashcroft - United Nations of Sound
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