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I Will Set You Free

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Album Review

In the four years since Barry Adamson issued the tour de force that was Back to the Cat, he's participated in at least one Magazine reunion tour. He was an original member before leaving to join the first version of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Adamson's influence is clearly felt on their first three albums and singles. I Will Set You Free purposely evokes the swaggering, sleazy rock & roll of the Bad Seeds and the restrained menace of Magazine's post-punk moodiness — as well as other stops along his idiosyncratic musical journey. Though he doesn't emphasize the imaginary soundtrack moves of his early records, it doesn't mean they aren't here — check "The Trigger City Blues," with its spooky organ and sound effects (breaking glass, ringing telephones, etc.). Adamson kicks off the ten-song set with "Get Your Mind Right," fueled by a throbbing, rumbling, distorted bassline that recalls the early Bad Seeds. He also cops part of the Rolling Stones' "Street Fightin' Man" lyrically and melodically at the end of each line in the refrain. "Black Holes in My Brain" is a fingerpopping shuffler that evokes Adamson's trademark lounge lizard persona as well as his deep love of swinging, bluesy jazz, though he undergirds it all with his thoroughly funk-drenched bassline for admirable contrast. 'Turnaround" uses the melodic, alienated menace of post-punk, though Adamson turns the tables by using it in a straight-up love song. "Destination" is pure sonic attack, directly referencing the Stooges "Penetration." On the refrain, however, Adamson throws a change-up: he slips an irresistible pop hook into the refrain and bridge without losing stride. "Looking to Love Somebody" is a shimmering, soulful, 21st century funk driven by harpsichord, rubbery bassline, wah-wah guitars and breaks. "The Sun and the Sea" features layers of guitars but actively suggests Magazine's "Secondhand Daylight." Adamson's Howard Devoto-esque alienated prophet contradicts the song's bright tempo; highlighting the influence further are keyboards in the instrumental interlude. "If You Love Her" unabashedly references Scott Walker's passionate, theatrical croon from Scott 4 with Piero Piccioni-esque production. (Adamson has the vocal chops to pull it off.) The set closes with an even stranger homage: to David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust if it had been produced by David Axelrod. Even with the pop music encyclopedia at his disposal, his songs reflect his signature iconoclasm. With their wildly various, crowded musical architectures, his songs' lyrics address desire and death, and celebrate the spiritual impossibility of living "purely." In Adamson's subjective universe, the standalone "I" may occasionally wish to enter the collective "We" but accepts that it cannot. I Will Set You Free is the sound of Adamson's liberation as a songwriter, producer, and arranger. He feels comfortable in his skin on this wonderfully sequenced collection of songs that makes no attempt to hide his past; if anything, he celebrates it as he moves ever forward.


Born: June 01, 1958 in Moss Side, Manchester, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Barry Adamson's work as a bassist for Magazine and Nick Cave's Bad Seeds gave little indication of the complex, cinematic works he has composed as a solo artist. After leaving the Bad Seeds in 1987, Adamson decided to follow the path of film composers like John Barry, Ennio Morricone, and Bernard Herrmann, whose work had intrigued him since childhood. His first full-length album, 1989's Moss Side Story (he had released one previous EP in 1988), was a tour de force, blending post-punk, industrial,...
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I Will Set You Free, Barry Adamson
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