Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown, is the 2007 third album Pictures Of The Other Side by British singer and songwriter, and Pop Idol runner-up, Gareth Gates. Will this picture tell a thousand words, or is it time to lock the Gates? Read on…
This 10 track CD opens with the simple piano chords of lead single Changes, which once Gareth has finished his whispery first verse, it soon musically reminds me somewhat of Mark Owen‘s Child meets the quiet parts of Radiohead’s Creep, with its slightly downbeat almost sinister childish sound. Gareth’s vocals are so soft here it’s like he’s nervously singing the song in case someone catches him. Quite how this was determined to be a strong lead single, is anyone’s guess, but I assume it’s because the song is about ‘we’re going through changes’ and that’s to represent Gareth’s career at this point – shifting from one label to another, and taking a less pop sound. This inevitably accounted for why the song peaked in the UK at #14, ending his run of top 10 hits.
A wonderful simple echoey little synth sound steps us into the titular Pictures Of The Other Side. Gareth again delivers his soft vocals but then manages to unleash a very slightly rockier sound. The song musically builds well, throwing in some occasional electric guitar as the synths continue throughout – it sounds quite nice.
That’s followed by Lost In You, which sets off like some kind of Pink! meets Feeder song, chugging along with guitars and lyrics delivered on a mono tone. The chorus does at least allow Gareth to show off some vocal power, which we’ve yet to hear in the album until this point. There’s also some more really nice synth sounds in the chorus that acts as a contrast to the simple chugging guitars of the verse.
19 Minutes follows this, and you may be glad to know that the song is actually 4 minutes and 15 seconds. This song sees Gareth lead us with his piano playing. It’s a simple mid-tempo song, which builds quite nicely between piano, vocal layers, and electric guitar.
Next is New Kid In Town, and the angst guitars are out, and Gareth seems to be leaning towards some kind of Liam Gallagher impression here. The track bounces along quite nicely, but Gareth’s voice doesn’t quite have the growl to duel the guitars, leaving it a little bit half baked.
Then it’s time for ballad Can’t Believe It’s Over, and the gentle strummed guitar set alongside Gareth’s fragile heartfelt vocals work really well here. Some strings join in for the second verse, helping to lift the vocals slightly with a sad undercurrent. Then in the mid section, the track seems to switch into a different song for a load more guitars before finally returning to the stripped back song.
That leads on to Afterglow, which bursts straight into the song, but Gareth’s vocals are once again all soft and whispery and her’s somewhat buried in the mix of the song – which is already loaded with bass, piano, and guitars. The chorus works really well though, with the piano taking a brighter turn, and Gareth getting a chance to hold a few notes. The song has a really nice tempo, aided by the easy flow from different sections, aided by a shuffling percussive beat and the constant piano. This should have been the lead single.
Angel On My Shoulder is next, and this is another piano-led mid-tempo heartfelt track. A simple beat sits underneath, with swirling strings, and acoustic guitars. This was the album’s second and final single, and as with preceding single Changes, this song is quite downbeat. The chorus does at least give Gareth some quite good opportunities to show off his vocal range. He’s eventually joined by a chorus of backing vocalists, and this really helps to lift the song, almost in a mock-gospel direction, which befits the topic of the song. The track continued his downward trend when released as a single, stalling at #22 in the UK.
That’s followed by Electric, co-written between Gareth and Deacon Blue‘s Ricky Ross, and it’s a nice foot-tapper of a guitar song, with Ricky Ross’ influence as a songwriter at play here. Sadly Gareth’s choice of register for the chorus is unfortunate as he’s so high that he’d choke on a star. Thankfully the verses flow effortlessly, and he does at least deliver these parts perfectly.
The album closes with some nice synths that open up an almost space-age sounding Talking Minds. Gareth’s vocals drop in alongside these and the track is off to a good start. There’s some really nice layering of piano and synths, and vocal harmonies, that it works very well as a wafty final song.
Over all, this album is just ‘nice’.
It’s clear that this ‘other side’ in the album’s title, and the ‘Changes’ of the single, represents Gareth’s evolution as a music maker, and this new ‘other side’ of him is one that clearly wishes to wander in the direction of the likes of Feeder, Pink!, and Oasis, but the difficulty is that he doesn’t have the vocal delivery to really do that leap justice.
Instead, he’s stuck here in this nice sounding music, nice sounding vocals (mostly, Electric choruses aside), slick production, and that’s just it. It’s nice but almost instantly forgettable in its absence of anything brave or signature.
The strongest song here is Afterglow, which really should have been a single. Angel On My Shoulder is nice too, and Talking Minds sounds wonderful, all being a long way from his saccharine pop start as part of the Pop Idol competition. The decision to start with Changes as the lead single was a mistake as it is so soft and limp that it can’t catch the attention the album needs.
Whilst Gareth might be trying to reach his ‘other side’, this album is more like the interlude music whilst he continues searching.
- POP RESCUE 2022 REVIEW RATING: 3 / 5
- 2007 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #23
- POP RESCUE COST: 33p from a British Heart Foundation store.