GUYS! Shush, yeah, I don’t want this getting out too quick. Just keep it on the down-low, yeah? I had to climb through a nest of smack addicts in Williamsburg to get this pure gold aural-fist-nugget and, let me tell you buddies, this is the real deal. This guy is the shit. This fella is at the cutting edge in sounds. I’ve got his LP right here. He calls it ‘Ringo 2012’. I mean, OOF, right? What could it mean? Must be mystical or some shit.
Ach, why am I joshing with you? You all know who he is, he’s bigger than Jesus, he narrated ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ (TtTE) for Christ’s sake! I mean, before that, he’d been bumming around with some unimportant beatniks called ‘the Beetles’ or some such, but after TtTE he hit the big league.
I suppose I should address right here, before I slam into reviewing Ringo’s newest effort: I don’t really like the Beatles. Gasp. Shock. Horror. How, Laurie? How can you? They redefined pop music. Everyone knows and loves their work. Ha! That fact is false, mainstream opinion. I only know the songs you keep bloodymindedly singing at me, cultishly willing me to join in. I don’t dislike their songs and I appreciate their influence (Gallagher brothers apart). But still, the songs are empty for me. Maybe it’s because I’m hearing them through the lens of four decades spent adding to their sound and so I find the originals wanting. Or maybe it’s because while I was growing up me mum was still open to new music. In the car we listened to Radio 1, instead of reliving and fetishizing the cool, hip 60s; a decade BBC4 is hell-bent on proving was objectively the only one worth living in.
To Ringo then, in 2012. I’d love to review it out of the context of the Beatles, but Ringo keeps dragging it back, like he doesn’t know anything else. He apes John and Paul’s voices, some songs singing as a rounded-out Lennon, others as a weedier McCartney. Woah guys, he’s aware of other music too, music after the Beatles, singing as he does on the majority of the album over Springsteen backing tracks. Americana guitars and steady drums are what all music is made of. To be fair, the album isn’t unlistenable; Ringo’s got the ear for a fair melody. In a plodding way, opener ‘Anthem’ is catchy. The layering of ‘Think It Over’, the harmony he puts behind the jaunty vocals are some nice work.
Must be hard, though, to own one quarter of the estate of the most successful band ever. What next? What do you do? Ringo sounds like he’s having a lot of fun on these tracks. Good for him, after the unequivocal joy he brought me from two to 11 years of age bringing some Scouse life to TtTE, he deserves every moment of snow-white happiness. But this feels like music out of habit, royalty-free midi files for ejay or cut-price karaoke machines. The lyrics on this album, business-savvy as Ringo is, are an advert for an iPhone rhyming app. Maybe Siri wrote them, ‘cos he can do everything else, yeah? “Some days are diamond, some days are stone/Some days we need, to just leave it alone” – look! Can you see sweat and effort crystalising around that line? If only it was about a geologist, but alas, alack, it comes from a track called ‘Wonderful’. If anywhere, it’s the surreal, simple track titles where Ringo excels. I hope they’re intentional. Some even read as commands. ¡STEP LIGHTLY! ¡SLOW DOWN! ¡SAMBA!
Ringo is a rich man. This isn’t a rich man’s vanity project. There’s no arrogant shouting about his greatness. It’s a man who just happens to have a recording studio in the mansion he just happens to have, who just happens to have had the mistake of thinking this is anything more than a mixtape to pass to his friends. There’s still another Beatle alive, yeah?
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