Last week wrinkly rocker Ian Brown came out with the lockdown single ‘Little Seed Big Tree’ and it hasn’t won him many brownie points. Despite the track showing genuine glimmers of promise, the blood poured for critics as Brown attempted to deliver a conspiracy laced anti-lockdown message.
Since turning the UK music scene upside down in 1989 with The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut album, Ian Brown has always been at his best when providing lyrical flair over a silky guitar solo or a hypnotic bass line. Following his departure from The ‘Roses he launched a successful solo career, releasing seven studio albums with all but one reaching the UK’s top ten. So with 30 years at the top, is it all coming to an end? Brown’s latest single has been bashed by the media, not only for its politics, but also the sound developed over the last album.
Even upon a first listen, the single screams ‘MADE IN LOCKDOWN’ as it leaves much to be desired. A simple instrumental of layered distorted guitars accompanies the vocals, which although could be just enough for a song, ultimately leaves it feeling second rate. The track does, however, come with a surprisingly catchy melody that you can’t help but feel would be improved by a bass line, something that iconically seems to make Browns vocals that edge more potent. Undeniably, the sound feels as though it has been rushed; a little more time and love could have set the tone for a successful single.
Moving on to the conspiratorial lyrics – ranging from ‘Masonic lockdown’ to ‘Doctor Evil and his needle,’ it must be said that a very big, easy target is painted on the back of Brown. To buck the trend, I’m not slating him for this, yet I’m also not condoning the messages. However, instead I want to look at why people are aligning themselves against government, and seemingly obvious, scientific advice.
This may not be true for all, but for some the pockets of resistance towards government orders are a fair reaction towards the world we’re creating. A world which over the past 20 years, has been advancing at a dizzying pace – without anyone stopping to check if we are going in the right direction. A world that to anyone who has read Orwell’s 1984, should genuinely scare them. With its billions of cameras, giant omnipresent technocrats and a GPS in everyone’s pocket (despite many people scoffing at these points they just scratch the surface). I think that for some, COVID was the last dystopic nail in the coffin.
Now, off the back of this- Should you make a song about it, with a sub-par instrumental and overall unimaginative lyrics? ‘Little Seed Big Tree’ has bluntly shown us that the answer is no.
Unfortunately for those offended it’s difficult to separate the art from the artist when the art’s lacking. Along with the blunt and bare track, Brown’s promotional activities have been little more than a string of controversial tweets. If only he’d spent half the time on twitter polishing the track, there might have been less to moan about. 2020 doesn’t need another activist, but it could really do with some stone cold, Ian Brown bangers.
Ian Brown misses the mark with his lockdown single, from failing to flesh out the instrumental to delivering plain lyrics. It feels as though he has taken a step backwards, a retrogressive move away from 2019 album ‘Ripples’. An album that held a much more subversive approach to Brown’s ideologies, while also being dressed up a lot prettier. If Brown wants to continue along this line of political rock, he needs to scale down the coarse extremisms to make space for clever tracks with punchy instrumentals. And on top of that, the most helpful (and potentially career saving) move would be to quickly pull both feet out of the rabbit hole. Here’s to Brit-pop?