Post-band solo careers. When this phrase is uttered, it usually conjures up one of two images. Either the image of the people who’ve gone on to get it really right (Beyoncé headlining at Glastonbury 2011, Cheryl launching ‘Fight for This Love’ on X Factor in THAT soldier outfit, Justin Timberlake being all cool with The Neptunes) or the image of the people who got it spectacularly wrong (Brian Harvey and that incident with the baked potato, Lisa Scott-Lee and her lack of shame at letting MTV follow her untimely demise, all of Blue going bankrupt) crops up.
And then there are the curve balls. The people who, more often than not, release a solo record that, regardless of its commercial or critical appeal, are like an unprecedented but brilliant gem. In all senses of the word, this sums up thus far the solo venturings of Eddie Brett.
His former band Loveable Rogues – whose debut and only album was reviewed on this here blog a little under two years ago – were the last truly decent music act to come from ITV’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. In the space of two years, three singles including top 10 hit ‘What a Night’, that album, countless tours, signing to a major label, leaving a major label and releasing with an indie label all passed by in a whirlwind.
When they formally called it quits at the end of 2014, no immediate plans to stay in performing and writing music seemed forthcoming from any of them. Sonny is now a DJ with a weekly show on Phoenix FM in Brentwood, Essex. Té likewise has moved into blogging, showcasing new talent via his SoundCloud account.
The first hint that something new was abound in Eddie’s world, however, was when a video went up on his YouTube account in July last year, a spoken word poem titled ‘What is a Dream?’ – a fascinating, unique piece written to an old college lecturer of his, half spoken, half rapped, and one that invited many a repeat play from these corners.
Not long after, his debut five track EP titled ‘He Does What He Wants’ was released, and showcased a completely different side to what had gone before with his time in Loveable Rogues. The haunting yet oddly morbid ‘Lady in Red’ with its Dire Straits-esque nod was a particular highlight for me.
Which brings us to this week, as his debut solo album proper, “Parlay” randomly appeared (or in his words, ‘did a Beyoncé’) for streaming and purchase online with no warning. Some may think that a risky move, but listening closely to the album, nothing seems risky about that decision at all.
Whilst it does possess the same witty, and tongue in cheek conversationalism in the lyrics that were in bountiful supply on Loveable Rogues’ material, musically, things have advanced forward, and Eddie has repositioned himself on a more harder, punky, at times even Brit rock style leaning – a far cry from the sprightly ska pop of say, ‘Honest’ or ‘Love Sick’.
Opening track ‘One Little Thing’ and ‘Riots’ are perfect examples of this. The latter concerns itself with the laconic dirge of post-university real life with an eye on the idea of being a successful adult in a broken economic Britain, all without a hint of a soapbox.
‘She’s Perfect’ is the obvious choice for a future single, boasting a summery blast of horns and a chorus that will be in your head for days after. ‘The City Don’t Like Us‘, a laidback acoustic jaunt about London suburbia, and the only track to survive from the early EP onto this album still feels fresh a year on as well. But perhaps most interesting are the album’s two closing numbers.
‘Funny World’ is a frank, honest track that seems to be recounting Eddie’s coming to terms with life away from the band, but not in the glib, woe is me sense of this matter: ‘When everyone’s left the party, and you’re left to clear up all by yourself / The lights have gone to black, and your fame ain’t coming back / Tell me what is it that you’ve done?’ It soul searches amiably into its subject matter, and is one of the strongest tracks on here.
‘The Tale of the Cockney Pirate’ ends the album on a sudden note – a half sung, half spoken poem that clocks in at just over a minute – but is a quirky closer, with instrumentation and lyrics calling to mind a Medieval chorus actor than the rest of the album’s more rockier leanings.
“Parlay” is, true, not an album that everyone will get straight away – but that’s besides the point. Rather than make the classic mistake of dismissing his former pop past altogether, Eddie has kept onto the spirit of what he bought to Loveable Rogues, but has taken this and cleverly applied it to carving out his identity as a solo artist. His way with words as a songwriter and poet has advanced even further on here, and that alone makes this record a triumph.
STREAM THESE: ‘Funny World’, ‘The City Don’t Like Us’.