Following the solo forays of someone who has been in a successful band is often an exercise based on previous exposure to their music.
Think of Ian Brown as an example; although the great man has achieved an amazing amount of solo success he has been noted as saying, in interview, that without the cult following of The Stone Roses his solo career probably wouldn’t have taken off like it did.
However, in reference to Tony Wright‘s work for those who have never heard anything by And So I Watch You From Afar, this doesn’t essentially matter. For although the songs of debut solo album ‘VerseChorusVerse‘ have a similar intensity, that’s really where the similarities end.
‘VerseChorusVerse’ is quite a mixed bag. The quality of the songs remains consistently good throughout, and the tunes veer between the jaunty, jiggy end of folk, almost entering thigh slapping territory, to the intimate and maudlin.
Some might argue in that respect Wright has created a sound not a million miles south of The Levellers, but with a subtle twist of many other influences.
The record opens with the gushing, catchy, gypsy folk of ‘Our Truth Could Be Their Lie‘, where the resonant power and quality of Wright’s voice is first given free reign; a powerful and versatile instrument in itself, sounding somewhere between a more youthful Chris Helm and a less highly strung David McAlmont, rattling off lyrics against a quick tempo, driving background of guitar and Hammond organ, intermittent wild trumpet calls and with a loose resemblance to Cher‘s ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves‘.
‘No More Tears‘ is of the same sort of pedigree; equally as ‘ump pah pah’ and beginning with surging mouth organ which lends it a kind of Bob Dylan meets country rock vibe, but with eerie little Rhodes signatures in the back end of the song which give it a more reflective edge, mid-scored by rattling drum beats and bombastic guitar constructs, all framing Wright’s vocals.
‘We Spoke With The Night‘ begins with an opening of melancholic guitars and is a tad reminiscent of Travis‘ ‘Side‘ before the vocal rips in with a gusto equal to Jeff Buckley, but with a stealth that is slightly more earth bound than angelic.
It could be construed that the icy ‘Three‘ is a poetic comment on Wright’s break from his previous band (sample lyric: ‘Three against one ain’t no fun unless you’re three and that ain’t me’), Wright’s fragile, pretty vocals gently wrap themselves about subtle string lines swirling around deliberately close, intermittently hammering doomy piano sentiments.
The haunting simplicity of ‘Common Prayer‘ – just Wright’s majestic voice soaring over one lone, darkly plucked guitar – is one to savour, not a million miles away from the often down beat spectral beauty of Jandek, and a wonderful contrast to the stompingly righteous sea shanty aping ‘Unified Unity‘.
The album ends with the upbeat, lullaby-lite ‘Close Your Eyes, Fall Asleep‘ where Wright succeeds in sounding as reassuringly warm as John Bramwell from I Am Kloot against a picturesque background of strings and guitar. A winning end to a beautiful record.
May many more be forthcoming.