Andrew Farriss has always been someone that you could never quite get a handle on. And as I was always going to mention INXS I might as well do it now. But the thing about INXS was this: they were never your archetypal rock or pop phenomenon.
He’s carried this on in his other work too. As a producer, he took Scottish Rockers Gun into a very odd direction when he worked with them, and now his debut solo stuff looks set to be similarly hard to pin down.
First, there’s a shed load of collaborators, including Suze DeMarchi (Baby Animals) Ciaran Gribbin (a friend who worked with him in INXS) Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams) and Jon Stevens (who was in INXS for a bit and has had spells in Dead Daisies, amongst others).
The key point, though is the melting pot of places that this was recorded in includes Nashville, and there’s a very “country”, for want of a better phrase, feel to most of this.
It is supremely well put together and – as you’d expect – sounds like a million dollars. Despite the stripped down flavours, there’s an epic feel to the opener, “Tears In The Rain”. It seems to come naturally to him, and this, without even trying has a sweeping soundscape.
The Lap Steel is from the top draw throughout, but never better than on “My Brother”. The harmonies mesh with the deep lyrical content, about suicide, so everyone can draw the natural conclusion, I suspect. It is perhaps the best thing this has to offer.
There is some fine guitar work on “All The Stars Are Mine” which recalls Aussie singer/songwriter Alex Lloyd to me – and its plea for unity is one that might have plenty of resonance in 2020, while the title track is a supremely clever singalong, but one that seems to come with a heavy meaning.
The last one, though, is a real left turn. Or at least it would be, if Farriss hadn’t made a career out of confounding expectations. Where the rest has been laid back, sun-dappled stuff, then “First Man On Earth” is electronic, almost industrial, and would probably be called “Trip-hop” if it was 1993 and Portishead had done it. If you weren’t expecting it, then you weren’t alone. It is strangely beguiling and intoxicating, however and perhaps a signpost to the fact that when the full length record comes out next year it could be as different again.
“Unexpected! would usually be the word you’d use, to describe “Love Makes The World”, but I am not sure it applies here, given the career of Andrew Farriss. “Always Interesting, and occasionally way better than that” will do instead.