The debut of Adam Bainbridge seems at once inspired by a seriously crafted, self-conscious pop sensibility and plagued by a referential irony which unfortunately limits the assertion of personality and sonic individuality. There are moments which display an exciting potential (‘SEOD’, ‘Cyan’) and explain the involvement of Phillip Zdar but the sins of ‘That’s Alright’ and ‘Anyone Can Fall in Love’ impair the quality and coherence shown elsewhere, making ‘World, You Need a Change of Mind’ a largely mixed affair.
‘World…’ begins with a fully-formed statement of intent; ‘SEOD’ is illumined with shimmering synth, an exultant drum machine addled with echo and virtuosic guitar solo fragments which eventually open up to a versatile baritone. Lyrically, Bainbridge deals in the idealistic escapism frequently associated with vocal house music: ‘It’s better if you let go’, ‘We never would have met/The beat brought us together’, ‘When we dance we are all the same’ – these statements do come over a tad saccharine but whilst framed in such finely nuanced pop, they assume a charming innocence.
The opener closes with a blissful expanse of subtly resplendent synth chords and impressive excursions on the saxophone making it undoubtedly, the best moment on the album. ‘Swinging Party’, a cover of The Replacements follows, with a mood of sunset-reflections underpinned by the gentle saunter of swirling synth and percussion which sounds close to a slowed interpretation of Loose Joints ‘Is It All Over my Face’ – an interplay which compounds productive pop-craft and an enamouring profundity. With ‘Gee Wiz’ Bainbridge continues on this gradient of strikingly admirable form with an ambient interlude interspersed with alluring vocal murmurs and remote pursuits on a blues-pitched guitar, married in a constancy of rich drones. This beginning displays a vein of form which leads you to believe that something much more substantial and significant is impending, unfortunately what actually comes falls short of the expectations conjured in this promising opening.
‘Gee Up’, although undeniably fun, feels incomplete due in part to its running time which makes it no less than an inconsequential funk vignette. ‘House (All That You Need)’ begins a more grand direction and feels like Bainbridge may deliver on the potential previously exhibited, with more heartfelt, melancholic idealism, but finishes far too abruptly to cohere with the sample heavy, Prince-esque ‘That’s Alright’. ‘Anyone Can Fall in Love’ (an interpretation of Anita Dobson’s 80’s hit adaption of the Eastenders theme tune) is a facsimile of power pop balladry but the postmodern irreverence fails to translate into anything redeemably significant or humorous. In a press release Bainbridge is quick to stress that himself and Zdar didn’t just ‘dabble in pastiche’, unfortunately this is exactly what comes to mind with ‘Anyone Can Fall in Love’, though I suppose some credit has to be given in that tackling something so tackily candied with sentiment does suggest the necessary possession of daring and ambition. Still, at this juncture you can’t help feeling Bainbridge has gone too far. ‘Cyan’ though, feels like redemption; affective and ethereal synth-pop radiance which displays a masterful negotiation of space in the closing stages, when the concluding chords are stretched out into a sublime vastness. ‘Bombastic’ smoothly grounds the grandiosity of ‘Cyan’ with a consistently tender, ambling pace and a peculiar middle which lists prominent figures in pop history and leftfield disco production i.e. ‘Kate Bush’, ‘Marvin Gaye’, ‘Walter Gibbons’, ‘Arthur Russell’ and a whole host of other iconic names submerged in a deep, hushed intonation. ‘Doigsong’ is initially over-deliberate with a profuse amount of slap-bass which borders on parody, though the second-half, like ‘Cyan’, atones for this over-indulgence with more innocent, honeyed sentiment (‘Hey I know, that’s between us’) framed within supremely produced pop full of well-measured effects, finishing on a reflective but equally groove-laden note.
The strange delineation of influences in ‘Bombastic’ encapsulates both Bainbridge’s appeal as well as his pitfalls. Although this eclectic pedigree of influences has obviously inspired some great moments on his debut, they have equally inhibited, resulting in the occasional prevalence of sensibility and ironic retrospection over something more personal, original and worthwhile. Bainbridge is clearly capable of overcoming this very postmodern affliction, there is far too much quality here to suggest otherwise. The video to ‘Gee Up’, a parody of hipster posterity and artistic sincerity, suggests a self-awareness conducive to overcoming such problems and this coupled with the potential clearly exhibited throughout the majority of his debuts duration, implies the inevitable development of a very exciting prospect.
By Tim Wilson