Album: George Michael

Patience, Sony

It's eight years since George Michael's last collection of original material, Older. So: eight years older, is he any the wiser?

Well, perhaps. Patience is a thoughtful, sophisticated work that flip-flops back and forth between, on the one hand, intense ballads dealing with serious matters - societal ills, the failure of faith (the belief, not the album), suicide and George's own life; and on the other, pounding disco anthems celebrating shameless hedonism. Somewhere in the middle, the two modes collide to effect the immaculate R&B sheen of tracks such as "American Angel", "Precious Box" and the single "Amazing".

The album's framed by the title track and its reprise, a solo piano lament for the ravages of war and famine in a time of plenty. "Is it my imagination, or did God already leave the table?" asks Michael, returning to the theme of theological doubt a few songs later in "John and Elvis are Dead", in which a friend wakes from a decades-long coma and enquires: "If Jesus Christ is alive and well, then how come John and Elvis are dead?" It is saved from facetiousness by its setting, a cross between Marvin Gaye's soft sensuality and the susurrus of "I'm Not in Love".

Two songs tackle the subject of suicide. Preceded by an answerphone voice explaining that "the god you wanted to contact is not available", the mellow R&B groove "Cars and Trains" counsels against "Taking your ass off the top of a building/ Throwing yourself under cars and trains/ Taking that pill that you know will kill you", while the piano ballad "My Mother Had a Brother" is closer to home with the story of an uncle, "over-sensitive and kind", who took his own life the day George was born. And indeed, reading between the lines of the closing track "Through", which I'm guessing was written in response to the reaction to his bust and subsequent outing, he's clearly a touch oversensitive to criticism himself. "Suddenly the audience is so cruel," he sings. "I think I'm through."

The impression of sensitivity and depth is marred, however, by the more thoughtless uptempo numbers, which pound along to a different agenda. "Flawless" promotes a notion of the enduring glamour of nightlife that even hardcore clubbers now recognise as empty and artificial, while "Freeek!" is a techno paean to cybersex so clichéd it employs the modem dial-up tone as part of the groove. The best of the disco numbers is "Shoot the Dog", largely because it's based on the Human League's "Love Action": again, hardly innovative.

This lack of musical development is the Achilles heel. The bits that don't sound like Older sound like "Fastlove", or even "Freedom 90". Perhaps he's settled for refining a style rather than breaking new ground? Certainly, his command of that style is assured, never more so than on "Round Here", an account of George's conception and upbringing that is surely the most fulsome tribute ever paid to Watford.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'