Album: Ian Brown

Music of the Spheres, Polydor
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The Independent Culture

The 1999 album Golden Greats offered a surprisingly mature response to Ian Brown's in-flight brouhaha and subsequent incarceration, an experience that clearly sharpened his outlook and his musical wits. Though similar in sound and style, Music of the Spheres is rather less focused, its ambient-dub soundscapes more likely to lose their thread, and Brown himself liable to lapse into overblown cliché at the drop of an aitch – at one point, I swear I heard him mumbling something about his "soul in ecstasy", which would be fine coming from William Blake, but somewhat less so coming from the former Stone Roses singer. The album overflows with space references – from talk of the Milky Way, Mars and "the universe reflected in your eyes" in "Bubbles", to the vague cosmic analogies of "Stardust" and "Northern Lights" – but little of consequence is revealed, the imagery perhaps reflecting the nebulousness of Brown's own worldview and aspirations. That's certainly the impression given by the pretentious single "F.E.A.R.", a collection of portentous but ultimately meaningless acronyms ("For everything a reason/ Fantastic expectations, amazing revelations/Forget everything and remember", etc) that marks out Brown as the Moody Blues of his era. There's an equivalent lack of clear direction to the music with only the ticks and clicks of the skittish dub-glitch groove "Gravy Train" hinting at a familiarity with more contemporary modes. One can't help thinking that if there actually is a planetary Music of the Spheres, as the ancients supposed, it surely has to be more interesting than this.