Andy Lucas: Weekend Millionaire
For the previous ten years, Andy Lucas has been a session musician. A pianist, in point of fact. What’s a pianist? It’s someone that plays the piano. What’s a piano? Well...er, it’s a large wooden box with metal strings and ‘keys’ and when you press said keys, music comes out. It’s sort of the 18th century equivalent of the iPod.
You don’t often see pop stars playing piano these days, Alicia Keys apart, as it’s not a tremendously fashionable instrument. Which is a shame, as a piano player and his instrument are capable of wonderful things, ‘I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’ being a case in point. Can you tell I’ve just bought one? That said, there’s owning a piano and there’s being able to play it like Andy Lucas can. A gifted performer and arranger, his debut album consists of eleven slices of jazz/swing tinged pop rock, consummately played and sung with real emotion.
Lucas was apparently inspired to take up the piano by, among others, Randy Newman. The strong narrative and virtuoso playing style of the offbeat West Coast singer-songwriter is apparent in a number of songs on Weekend Millionaire, particularly ‘Einstein & The Taxi Driver’, a curious tale wherein the eminent physicist brands Lord Newton a ‘jammy little apple-finding fuck’, but this and ‘Prozac’ perhaps sail a little too closely to pastiche. Lucas experiences greater success with the less obviously Newman-inspired tracks, such as the wistful closer ‘Burn’, the lush and brooding, Ryan-Adams-in-Gold-mode ‘Talk of the Town’ and the swinging title track.
The aforementioned paucity of piano playing singer-songwriters and resultant lack of variety means that hearing tinkling ivories can often put one in mind far more easily than you might with guitar based music. ‘Sleeping’, for instance manages to sound a little like piano rock stalwarts Ben Folds Five and Coldplay, but also inexplicably, a little like the theme to You Only Live Twice. This is not a bad thing (mainly because most James Bond scores were composed by John Barry, a singular talent that tried his damndest to spin a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that was the Roger Moore era, but that’s entirely beside the point). There’s a hint of Chris Martin in Lucas’ timbre, a textured baritone in a landscape of homogenous widdly squealing.
Maybe this album will find its audience among those that like a particular variety of piano-dominant music. Kicking off proceedings with the mellow ‘Birds’ is a brave move, when perhaps ‘Weekend Millionaire’ itself, or even the insidiously catchy ‘Einstein and the Taxi Driver’ might have been a more beguiling choice. Still, this is a solid and competent debut album, with extravagant flourishes and great charm.
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