After ceasing operations with his seminal groovespacerock act Verve, expectations were high for Richard Ashcroft's solo debut in 2000. Alone With Everybody was a bit of a sonic rollercoaster, some songs rivaling the strength of his previous band, while some tracks wallowed in a swamp of mediocrity. Now, over two years on, "Mad Richard" is back with a new album, Human Conditions. His sophomore album moves on a bit from his 2000 album, especially in the lyrical category. On "Check The Meaning," accompanied by strings and horns, Ashcroft sings of more upbeat subject matter than we are used to from the usually dire man. Perhaps his life with ex-Spiritualized member Kate Radley and their young child has turned his life towards the joyous. Or perhaps he's just making a crossover attempt towards the gospel market. Who knows? "Science of Silence" is further life-affirming, quintessentially Ashcroft songsmithery, while the pace is picked up a few notches on the rocking, toe-tapping "Bright Lights." Now if we could just get him to tour the States.
JEREMY P. GOLDSTEIN