Album: Roland Gift

Roland Gift, Universal
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The Independent Culture

"I don't know where I'm going," sings Roland Gift on the second track of this debut solo album, "I'm just looking for a friend." And well he might: there's little about Roland Gift that suggests he's got out much at all since The Fine Young Cannibals' heyday a decade and a half ago, so closely does it follow the same formula. Produced by Paisley Park cohort David Z and new-wave studio stalwart Ben Barson (brother of Madness's Mike), it's full of the same kind of stripped-down, itchy grooves that made his reputation, augmented here and there by wah-wah soul guitar, organ pad or power chord, though crucially lacking the naggingly memorable hooks that made tracks such as "She Drives Me Crazy" and "Good Thing" such massive worldwide hits. There are a few that come close, notably "Wish You Were Here", on which Gift's falsetto croon gives way to the big, resonant guitar chords and anthemic bluster of the choruses, and the single "It's Only Money", whose portentous string intro closely resembles that of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise". Otherwise, it's a fairly limp effort, with the lack of any real need glaringly obvious in tracks such as "Say It Ain't So" and airplay begging-letter "Lady DJ". Musically uninspired, the album grinds on regardless, seemingly unaware of its target constituency, while lyrically it's hard to locate a single line of distinction among the 12 tracks: indeed, by the closing "What Do You Mean", Gift seems to have given up trying, getting locked into a repetitive loop as if the needle were stuck – an apposite metaphor, perhaps, for his career.

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