Album Review

I've Never Lived

I've Never Lived

by Timothy Blackman

8 / 10
29th September 2010

Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

It’s an arresting cover image. A lion is coloured in orange, almost naively, but like the album contained within, there’s a thing of beauty and fierceness hidden within something so simple. It’s almost as if those little things which don’t quite fit into pre-determined lines are just as important. Timothy Blackman’s debut album I’ve Never Lived is arresting in how close it sounds to you, warts and all – Blackman sounds like he’s having a conversation with you and you’ve got no option but to take notice of his point of view. It helps that he’s got a compelling voice and raw moving songs, and you realise once you’ve stepped back from the album that his point of view is also well-worth listening to.

The album speeds by at only 28 minutes, matching the sparse arrangements and Blackman’s m.o. of only including what’s needed. ‘Rain Don’t Choose Where It Falls’ is a great opener, with a sweet melody and beautifully judged guitar solo (which ultimately simply replays the vocal line, but just works). ‘Waltz for a Decent Man’ uses its spare production to perfectly match Blackman’s naked vocal performance. The excellent ‘Where the Caterpillars Live’ makes use of loud/soft guitarwork and runny chords in the verses in order to slip into a cathartic chorus in which Blackman almost wistfully exhales, ‘I’ve never lived alone’. ‘June 12th’ is all unspoken regret, while ‘Defeat and Retreat’ is a fitting closer: unsteady time signatures, a voice which twists and turns towards and away from the mic, almost as if the confusion and restlessness of the album preceding the song has one last attempt to try and reconcile.

The album isn’t perfect, sure, Blackman’s voice can occasionally buckle (hell, that never stopped the likes of Jeff Mangum from writing masterpieces), and the song-writing is capable of supporting much more within each song. But as a debut, it’s a highly promising work, and Blackman demonstrates clearly that he has the potential to craft a distinctive and iconoclastic musical personality.

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