Mark Owen - How The Mighty Fall

There's a telling line on "Believe In The Boogie" where Owen admits "Coul have had it all. from the Albert Hall to the Uni Ball. How the mighty fall...But I see them and us in me and you". You could look at Owen pitifully as the man who could have had it all, but in many ways if you look deeper he still does - over the years he's carved out a unique niche in guitar pop that has shown scant regard for the musical climate of the time. On "How The Mighty Fall", his third solo album, this is more evident than ever before with Owen eschewing high profile collaborations with the likes of Ian McCulloch and Bernard Butler for a collection of songs that stand up on his merits alone.

At times sentimental and at other flippant and throwaway the album is a look into the psyche of Mark Owen. Despite being seen as the cherubic cutesy smiley face of pop, his previous singles have touched on suicide ("Clementine") and the end of the world ("Four Minute Warning"). This album may have none of these deep sentiments, the idea was to make a heartfelt, but "up" record on this release.

Owen's voice is the sole thread which holds together a scope of musical influences incorporating country-tinged Bread influenced laments ("Sorry Lately"), Ian Dury does Honky Tonk ("Waiting For The Girl To Call"), indie-funk ("3:15) and an almost cabaret show tune on "Stand". It's only on "Wasting Away", a prog influenced Muse stomp, that the album seems anywhere near contemporary and it's to Owen's credit that he holds it together as a cohesive package rather than going off on a Scissor Sisters-esque tangent.

When you consider that the likes of Emo Simpson are hustling for artistic respectability by ploughing tried and tested paths, you have to admire Owen for having the confidence to take his own route. It may not be glaringly obvious, but Mark Owen in a musical maverick who consistently provides the goods. "How The Mighty Fall" is his finest release to date!!!

Alex McCann

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