Andy Bull – We’re Too Young (Universal Music)
Review originally published by Onya Magazine (September 2009)
Andy Bull’s album We’re Too Young is a record of assertions of self-proclaimed naivety and emotional inquiry. It is about love and lost, fun times and nostalgia. But more importantly, its quaint messages have been looping on my CD player since its release.
I was introduced to Andy’s music the same night I was introduced to the man himself, on the final week of his Sydney residency at Spectrum. I must say there was something to the sensitivity of his performance that caught me. While wrenching my heart in Grown Folk and stunning the audience by pointing at one specific audience member while singing, She’s cheating on you, Dude, Bull proved himself as thoughtful and daring and for the first time in a little while, I left the venue with a strong recollection of a number of tracks; not my usual response to an artist I had never heard. Of course, the live situation has the possibility of tainting or trumping the album and I cannot deny its effect; the track I feel is the weakest in full production mode is She’s A Ghost; not because a lack of quality on the album, but the supreme intimacy the live version evokes when freed of the constant album pace. That said, She’s a Ghost is one of the strongest tracks lyrically and thus often finds itself elevated to ‘single-track loop’ status. My favourite track on the album would have to be Grown Folk, for a similar connection to the live performance. I was attached to the song after hearing it live just once, and the album version relieved a musical thirst left unquenched for months. Whether played live and solo, or multi-tracked in the studio, the track is superbly melancholy. It is a song of hope and mislaid faith, the potential of relationship repair and the acute contemplation of the future – a trait Generation Y is presently being slammed for not possessing. That said, Grown Folk is not quite single material, despite Andy himself confessing to me via twitter (twitter.com/Andy_Bull) that it was his favourite too. The singles are obvious. Young Man, We’re Too Young, Small Town Girl and Do You Recall all stand out as star material though Andy’s on and off stage demeanour suggests that he is far too grateful for his newfound popularity to be in any way compared to the pompous stars the industry has formed a habit of signing.
Perhaps it is this sensitive modesty which constantly draws me to a comparison with Regina Spektor. Both seem fearless in their individuality; approaching songs with a style rather than a template, enjoying the simple catharsis of accepting human limitation. Both artists toy with the sound of each syllable, stretching or constricting vowels to great effect. Though Bull’s voice could in limited circumstances be criticised for its nasality, he possesses a smooth fragility which could be compared to Nina Simone’s subtle growl, Harry Angus’ sharp scat or Kimya Dawson’s adolescence – uniquely executed and perfectly set. Try singing along to Small Town Girl, for example without stretching your cheeks to match the shallow “I” of girl, or the sensitive “e” of world (reminiscent also of Michael Jackson.)
While discussing We’re Too Young, it would be short-sighted to omit the work of Tony Buchen. From a lengthy partnership comes a very interesting musical treatment, with Buchen stepping in as both producer and multi-instrumentalist to realise Bull’s musical endeavours. The album is unique amongst the clean, over-compressed pop records being pumped out elsewhere, and perhaps the time we had to wait for Andy’s debut has been spent finding the exact balance between roots and radio play. The album retains a professional sound without stripping dynamic expression or contour; Buchen’s production is like laying a diamond next to a lump of coal and letting the comparison speak for itself. Bull’s voice infiltrates layers of smoky drums, stark and cavernous keyboards and apple-bottom bass, his unique timbre shooting him ahead of the pack. It is the sound of an artist finding his way and apparently Bull agrees, stating in the We’re Too Young EPK, “that roughness sounds like youth to me.”
As the title track philosophises, “living is just about people and love and the rest, you can forget it,” Andy Bull focuses on what it means to be a work in progress; approaching lyricism with a sensitivity and wisdom he may just admit he doesn’t yet deserve. Andy Bull captures the nature of what it means to be a young man.
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