There’s a lot to appreciate about Adam Marsland the musician. For starters, he’s got a pretty damn good voice by most rock ‘n’ roll standards. It’s sort of a nasally falsetto not much unlike the one that belongs to none other than the better half of Tenacious D, Jack Black. Listening to Marsland sing reminded me of Barry Jive and the Uptown Five covering “Let’s Get It On” at the end of High Fidelity and just like JB, Marsland can be just as effective belting it out hard as he can be laying it down soft. Next off, he goes big in his song writing style from everything to his bombastic choruses down to his detailed arrangements and its respectable how he’s able to do so with such little restraint. Finally, he primarily hearkens back to a style of two piano based pop musicians that fought to dominate radio waves and Billboard charts for the better part of two decades; Elton John and Billy Joel.
While there’s a lot to appreciate about Adam Marsland the musician, his latest effort, the double disc Go West, is a lot tougher to appreciate as an album. What’s most frustrating about Go West is that there’s this ongoing lack of focus that’s occasionally borderline schizophrenic. There’s no cross genre experimentation, all of Go West‘s songs are genre specific. There’s just too many genres covered within the confines of a singular collection of songs to be significantly admired as a whole. As mentioned before, he primarily sticks to the John/Joel style, but there’s a “Superstition” modeled funk song with “Two Children in a Bed,” a fiery electropop tune with “I Don’t Wanna Dance With You”, and a power chord laden punk song with “Like Other Men.” The scope Marsland delivers makes Go West play out more like a mix tape than an actual album. He’s probably talented enough to succeed if he were to stay within a specific genre and expand his sound through it, but by bouncing all over the place he doesn’t do himself or his listeners any favors.
While the stylistic hopping gets annoying, there are still 23 songs in total and some of which are thoroughly enjoyable. There are two back-to-back gems, in particular, with “No Return” and “Despair.” Both songs hold light electronic instrumentation to accompany their focus – Marsland’s lyrics and the manner in which he sings them. The album opener, “Standing In Chicago,” is also one of Go West’s top offerings. Its core is nothing more than a bouncy organ over a slow moving cello, some gentle percussion, and Marsland’s easy vocals. It’s short, but quite a sublime blend of sounds which is really the essence of any quality song. As it opens strong, it ends strong with a thoughtful ballad by the name of “Trains”. It’s tough to argue against the quality of this gentle number, but it also seems like a last ditch effort to anchor down an otherwise unbalanced combination of random thoughts.