Alex Clare has so far made two incursions into the British public’s consciousness.
The first came when he dated Amy Winehouse for a year, after which he charmingly flogged a kiss-and-tell account of their relationship to the News of the World; the second arrived when Microsoft’s use of his single Too Close in a TV ad saw it go top 10 both here and in America.
That single was taken from his debut album, The Lateness of the Hour, which was leant a luscious shine and serrated edge by R&B/dance producers Diplo and Switch. Shorn of their jagged lustre this time around, Clare is sadly revealed as just another run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter and troubadour
His follow-up’s strongest moment by far is the lead single, War Rages On, a tremulous slab of dubstep-driven skewwhiff soul that James Blake or Jamie Woon would be proud to claim. Take You Back also intrigues, sounding like a yearning throb of classic Motown recalibrated for the digital age.
Yet outside of those two tracks, Clare’s blue-eyed soul is all huff, puff and elbow grease and little magic. His faux-bluesman vocal soon grates, and sounds oddly dated: Never Let You Go and the album’s title track recall the clenched, anaemic 1980s white-boy soul of Paul Young, while the ersatz blues of So Deep is as limp and dreary as (shudder) Simply Red.
Possibly aiming at the post-Blurred Lines misogynist market, Clare closes with a taut croon through Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love that manages to be even more odious than the original. I don’t think Microsoft will come calling this time.