Album: Finley Quaye

Much More Than Much Love, Sony
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The Independent Culture

Finley Quaye's third album appears almost three years to the day after its predecessor Vanguard, and frankly, it's hard to figure out what took him so long. Can it really have taken over 1,000 days to come up with this bland, innocuous offering, an album which only serves to erode further the clarity of character of his debut Maverick A Strike? Barely any of these 13 tracks has the decisive personality that compels one to play it again, and none has the kind of sly, insinuating appeal that might enable it to worm its way into your affections: you're not going to find yourself humming these songs on the bus, the way you did with "Sunday Shining". The problem with the kind of laid-back, reggae-flavoured stuff Quaye deals in is that to be effective, it needs to appear effortless, and it's a thin line between effortless and lazy. Which is not to say that he's not working at it, or trying to develop - there are tentative steps taken in different directions, notably Nashville, with "Lover's Return" a pleasant enough country ballad in Willie Nelson style, care-worn and matter-of-fact, while "This Is How I Feel" is a gentle country-soul plodder that recalls Dobie Gray. But too many tracks are ill-defined and indistinct, their sentiments of empowerment and affection too vague and platitudinous: his own drab, formless "Living Without You", for instance, is shamed by Randy Newman's song of the same title, and not even Beth Orton's harmonies and William Orbit's throbbing synths can bring any more life to "Dice". Only "Overriding Volunteer" seems to possess a clear attitude, but its message is dulled by clumsy lines. What has he been doing for three years?