Ian Brown’s ‘Ripples’ is a sparkling example of an artist letting their creativity flow and enjoying their music. The former Stone Roses frontman has been out of the studio for a decade, and has come back with a record that might not be a favourite for those who adored the Roses’ explosive debut album from 30 years ago; but is perfect for those willing to accept a more mellow Ian Brown.
‘Ripples’ is a really smooth listen. It glides between your eyes like caramel at some points. Brown has experimented with a lot of different sounds and tastes over his illustrious career, but the general tranquillity of ‘Ripples’ might be one of his best creations to date.
The time and dedication can really be heard in the music on ‘Ripples’; this is the opposite of the word ‘rushed’. There’s a really obvious and coherent sound at the core of the entire record that you can hear on every track.
The guitar tones, basslines, keys and the effects on Brown’s vocals are all pretty much consistent; and for the most part they all manage to contribute to tracks with a clear theme but their own individuality. Whilst some of the 10 tracks on ‘Ripples’ are definitely weaker than others, they are all part of a very strong unit.
Brown’s best work comes in the middle portion of the record. His vocals are given their strongest outing on stripped-back acoustic number ‘Breathe And Breathe Easy’, as well as the more powerful ballad ‘From Chaos To Harmony’.
Those tracks sandwich the seedy funk of ‘The Dream And The Dreamer’, before moving into the ethereal and feel-good ‘It’s Raining Diamonds’ and culminating in the title track, which has the most amazing guitar work on the record. It’s a gauntlet of songs that will leave you absolutely purring. The tracks at either end of the record don’t quite reach the same superb heights as the middle portion; though are still hugely important to the overall theme (particularly the opener ‘First World Problems’).
These tunes are the biggest culprits of my one main gripe with ‘Ripples’: repetition. There are some really great lyrics and catchy hooks all over the record, but they sometimes lack the verses to support them. You end up hearing the same lines over and over and over again, which can take away from your enjoyment of the instrumental.
All this wouldn’t matter if some of the tracks weren’t as long as they are; they’d still sound fantastic with a minute or so of repetition taken out. ‘Ripples’ is a relaxing record and that’s to its credit, but the same continual lyrics make you zone out a little bit too much.
Don’t let that stop you listening to ‘Ripples’ though, because it is absolutely worth a listen. You might even be the type of person who loves to drift away in the music, and if so ‘Ripples’ could well be your album of the year.
Whilst Ian Brown has been gone, we’ve clearly been missing him based on the outstanding quality of ‘Ripples’. It’s a really impressive return to the frontline, and we hope Mr Brown is here to stay this time around.