Mark Owen

How the Mighty Fall

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Perhaps alluding to his own downward career trajectory, Mark Owen's third solo effort, How the Mighty Fall, may have sold less than a hundredth of the following year's re-formed Take That comeback album, but it continued to prove that the former cutesy pinup was always the most interesting songwriter in the band. After 2003's stab at commercial success, In Your Own Time, failed to capitalize on his post-Big Brother stardom, the first release through his own Sedona label reverts back to the quirky indie pop of his similarly ignored 1997 debut, Green Man, but in a less contrived manner, which suggests that any NME-chasing ambitions have been wisely abandoned. Indeed, despite a rather impressive alt-rock roll call, including producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Turin Brakes), former R.E.M. drummer Joey Waronker, and Jellyfish founder Roger Manning Jr., its 12 tracks don't always appear too concerned with any notions of credibility. The honky tonk piano chords and cod-skiffle rhythms of "Waiting for the Girl" evoke Cockney pub rock geezers Chas & Dave singing the Only Fools and Horses theme tune, "Stand" is a mournful torch song that sounds like it belongs in a West End musical, and "3.15" is an eccentric slice of indie funk containing a chorus that appears to be voiced by the Muppets. This playful nature is the album's strength, as the more conventional moments pale in comparison to their obvious influences, whether it's the bombastic prog rock of Muse ("Wasting Away"), the chiming balladry of Coldplay ("Come On"), or the jangly '60s pop of the Beatles ("Hail Mary"), and unfortunately, when Owen does conjure up a melody as gorgeous as the country-tinged "Sorry Lately" or a lyric as refreshingly self-aware, as on the Brit-pop throwback "Believe in the Boogie" ("From the Albert Hall/To the Uni Ball/How the mighty fall"), they're overshadowed by his rather grating and nasal Mancunian tones, which sound like David Bowie meets Larry the Lamb. Despite the increasing indifference toward his solo career, Owen can take heart from the fact that he made it to one more album than his bandmate Gary Barlow managed, but while its sense of invention should be applauded, its lack of memorable melodies explains why it was the latter who took control of their reunion.

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