Top critical review
Surprisingly Grown Up
on 6 November 2007
Ruarri Joseph's debut album has been compared to the likes Jack Johnson and if you try hard enough you can see (if not hear) some similarities. Both could be pigeon-holed (unfairly) into what I might call 'surfer/slacker chic', both feature tracks that are almost exclusive acoustic and guitar lead, both feature a male lead supported by un-named backing musicians.
There the similarities cease however, leaving Jackson (whose music I like) and Joseph as very different musical animals. As such further comparisons between the two are worthless and Ruarri's album deserves to be judged entirely on its own merits.
On this basis I would consider it a qualified success. Featuring guitar driven melodies backed, but never dominated, by a wide variety of supporting instruments, from boogie-woogie piano to horns, the album is eclectic in terms of the range of sounds on offer. Some tracks, like 'Relying on Lying' do carry hints of the sort of surfer-chic sounds popularised by the likes of the Thills. Others, such as the title track, are harder hitting with a definitely bluesy feel to them and some, like 'Infant Eyes' are simple, gentle melodies.
Such diversity makes placing Joseph in one single musical genre difficult. Some tracks are also far more successful than others, with 'Early Morning Remedy', the previously mentioned 'Infant Eyes' and 'More Rock N' Roll' particular standouts. On the whole the good also outweigh the not so good (there are no really poor tracks), but there are also no outstanding tracks that make you really sit up and pay attention.
The one truly surprising, and pleasing thing about Tales of Grime & Grit is how grown up it is in terms of the sentiments and emotions on offer in the music. Rather than the expected preoccupations with the concerns of youth such as partying and angst, the album instead focuses on issues such as parenthood and the desire to spend time with family rather than on meaningless partying. It is also resolutely positive, yet avoids becoming saccarine. Alll of this came as a refreshing change from some of the dark and edgy musical fare on offer from singer/songwriters these days.
So overall not a bad debut from Ruarri Joseph. Not an unqualified success, nothing that is going to make him stand out hugely from the crowd and unlikely to make any huge waves with the wider public unless the album's lucky to catch the cultural zeitgeist. Still, not a bad first effort and pleasurable to listen to when all you want is to chill out and relax.