[sic] Magazine

Freebass – It’s A Beautiful Life

Not Good Enough.

Freebass , mooted for half a decade as the wild and imaginary folly of Hooky , Mani , and Andy Rourke , have finally released an album on the day they split up after an ill-thought-out rant. After years in the silent wilderness, to me, at least, being as credible as the Loch Ness Monster, the album – ‘It’s A Beautiful Life’ – finally breaks cover. Ultimately, this fine value package is somewhat disappointing. Musically, the work lacks the punch, urgency, and compelling passion that has woven itself deep into both Hook and Mani’s other bands.

Previous records by their respective bands (and what a legacy they leave), always gave me one compelling thought, be it Joy Division , New Order , The Stone Roses , Primal Scream or The Smiths : that I just discovered a great record I’ll spend the rest of my life with, and I need to hear it again. Soon.

And that’s not what I have here. It might be that, for me, a great band also needs a memorable vocalist that produces lyrics worth hearing and melodies you can remember and a voice you can recognise from the first line. For me, Freebass have not found that voice. The airy, effete vocals – not in a problem themselves, but lacking the weight and gravitas to match the music – float over the songs like a badly composited special effect in a cheap movie.

The music itself is generally dense, leisurely paced and to these ears, the nearest thing Hook has come to ‘Movement’ era New Order in three decades, but let down by forgettable vocals : vocals that the record doesn’t need when Hook himself is a better singer. Thankfully, the second CD is an instrumental version of the album, captured with Hook’s backing vocals, which makes it a much more enticing prospect, and the one that you will probably come back to more.

Additionally, the release schedule – that of digital downloads of 10 tracks six months before a 26 track double CD later – seems somewhat ruthless and discouraging to the fan who simply wants all the stuff in one readily available package sooner rather than half a year later.

That said, when Hook takes over the vocal duties on ‘Stalingrad’ the quality improves dramatically ; but the song quickly descends into the kind of half-assed reggae-lite that The Orb got bored of 20 years ago.

Overall, this reminds me of Jesus Jones ‘Liquidizer’ in one respect – a record that I’ve bought that now, frankly, I’m going to have to like it, because I’ve invested time and money in it, and, at first glance it is the least satisfying record Hook or Mani have released since Revenge , ‘Gun World Porn’ EP. And that’s no way for anyone to have to think about any album they’ve bought. I’ll file this one in the category of ‘I’ll listen to this later when I’ve run out of stuff to listen to’, and remember then why I didn’t like it when I first heard it. Which is a shame, because I wanted this to be brilliant. And it isn’t.



For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word