Album: Richard Ashcroft <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Keys to the World, PARLOPHONE
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There's a moment halfway through Keys to the World when all of Richard Ashcroft's best intentions come tumbling down around his ears. Until then, things had been proceeding nicely, with the impassioned anti-religion tirade "Why Not Nothing?" heralding the Curtis Mayfield-derived anthem "Music Is Power", the single "Break the Night With Colour" - written three years ago, but still the best thing here -- and "Words Just Get in the Way", a consolatory piano ballad to excite Chris Martin into an even stickier blob of devotion. But then during "Sweet Brother Malcolm", a song about roadside floral tributes to crash victims, Ashcroft over-emotes appallingly on the word "cellophane", drawing it out as if it were the most moving term in the dictionary, and the album is fatally holed beneath the waterline. Thereafter, the singer's po-faced self-regard tends to obscure the actual songs, rather like the proverbial elephant in the room that no-one wants to mention. The music - a blend of vaunting piano riffs, lowing strings and layered guitars, recalls The Verve's mature work, but mostly suffers by comparison with it.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Break the Night With Colour', 'Music Is Power', 'Why Not Nothing?'