Reflections of an Illusion
On first listen, Andy Whittle's latest album comes across as fairly uninspired English singer-songwriter fare. But it’s worth persevering with to reveal a handful of memorable songs. Whittle at his best has a definite gift for melody, and some of these songs once implanted in your brain will be pretty difficult to shift. Unfortunately you also get a similar number of songs that are simply unremarkable, so there's a disappointing inconsistency.
This is Whittle's fourth album, and as a singer he’s easy on the ear, with a quite distinctive Northern English accent that comes through at times. He plays guitar and piano (at times deliberately out of tune), accompanied by a small band. “Spanish Armada”, taken at a relaxed strolling pace, is first-rate.
On both this and the opener “Easier Said Than Done”, his backing singer Helena Derriscott gets a verse to herself, to good effect. They sound good together - her voice both complementing and providing a nice contrast with Whittle's.
“Own Sweet Time” with its simple repetitive guitar figure is another track which is addictively catchy. There's a clutch of love songs - “Wide Awake Waltz” is about being hopelessly in love, “Parting Song” a straightforward, but pretty, break-up song, and “Smoke Screen” about being left behind.
Unfortunately there are a couple of songs where Whittle seems to have come up with a simple image (for example: You're about as reliable as a market wristwatch) on which he has hung a whole song. He pulls a similar trick with “Metal Shoe”, suggesting life is like a game of cards. These are fairly slender offerings, and a couple of the other songs make even less of an impression. It's this inconsistency that lets Whittle down, but the best of “Reflections Of An Illusion” gives cause to hope that – if he exercises stronger quality control in the future – better things could lie ahead.