Andy Yorke | Simple (Chocolate Lab)

cd_andy-yorke.jpgSimple is always pleasant, but rarely truly engaging or thought provoking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being the lesser-known, yet still talented, sibling of a successful artist must be the rawest deal in all of music. Sure, the entertainment world is full of hack family members looking to ride coattails and make a quick buck. But what about musicians like poor Simon Townshend or Chris Jagger, the ones who just sort of keep to themselves, make their music on their own terms, and get on with their lives? So, out of respect, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Andy Yorke is one of these folks; he’s Thom Yorke’s younger brother. He sounds nothing like Radiohead. Let’s move on, shall we?

Simple is too often fraught with elements that tend to hamstring it. A number of decent tunes end up underdeveloped, or are left hanging by lyrical blandness, or far more repetition than is strictly necessary. "Found the Road" and "Twist of the Knife" are both tracks that fit this description: They initially sound great, but if you actually dig beneath the warmth of Yorke’s voice and the wonderfully cutting cello accompaniment, there’s little doing or being said. The album-opening title track illustrates this precisely. It feels right, but it’s mostly just…boring. There are even a few songs that are flat-out depressing, but not in a good way. "Diamant," for example, is an utterly humorless dirge, clocking in under four minutes but feeling much, much longer.

Despite its flaws, this is by no means an awful album. Every song on Simple, even the least essential, is anchored by Yorke’s plaintive, Neil Finn-esque voice. It’s clear and enveloping, yet earthy and lived in. He’s the singer-songwriter equivalent of a comfy, broken-in couch or a favorite sweater that you save for the coldest November day. Four songs in, "Rise and Fall" finally breaks the LP out of its mopey, mid-tempo rut with its dynamic melodic lines and dramatically chiming cadence. "One in a Million" sweeps in and once again recalls the younger Finn brother; it’s effortlessly melodic, breezy and confident. "Always by Your Side" is an affecting ballad, sparse, haunting and emotional; the occasional electric piano and faint strings superbly underscore the song’s acoustic guitar spine and Yorke’s soaring voice. The sighing accordion on "Let It Be True" is another fine small touch, combining quite well with a touch of cello, and preventing the song from settling into the sleepy strum it initially seems destined for. "Ode to a Friend" is basic yet buoyant, finishing itself (and the disc) on a forceful note, one that’s sorely lacking from the rest of the album.

Simple is always pleasant, but rarely truly engaging or thought provoking. It’s also crafted, comfortable music with plenty of pleasures to impart. Mostly, it’s the sound of a man and an artist at ease with himself, which gives the disc a certain gracefulness that‘s difficult to deny. B | Mike Rengel

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