In the last eight years, producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Barry Adamson (formerly of Magazine and the Bad Seeds) has issued only three albums, and, counting this one, only seven since 1989. Never an artist who looked at trends or genres, Adamson has always been content to follow the inner workings of his mind. With 1998's As Above, So Below, he moved away from the soundscape-soundtrack-without-a-movie oriented conceptual work he'd been doing since the beginning of his solo career to engage in a more song-based approach. This followed on The King of Nothing Hill in 2002, and on 2006's Stranger on the Sofa, he moves back a step in order to take two forward. For starters, there are very few guests on the set. Adamson handled most instrumental chores and sampled and swiveled the other bits himself; he knows how to get the right loop when he needs it to be sure. There is certainly soundscape work on this recording, check the opening "Here in the Hole," an effects-laden tome narrated by Anna Chancellor, or Pscalle Fuiulee-Kendall's narration of "Deja Morte," or the noir-ish jazzscape as drenched in effects and dubby echo on the album's closer "Free Love" for three examples of his former way of working. But there's so much more here. Adamson's songs are quite whimsical and lovely when they want to be, "The Long Way Back Again" is such an instance; it could have been a Pogues singalong, with utterly beautiful homesick lyrics. "You Sold Your Dreams" is a futurist lounge lizard's approach at both the early, skeletal funkiness of the pop group as they meet the urban sophistication and poetry of Get Happy!'s Elvis Costello. No. Not Kidding. The B-3 jazz stomp and stroll of "Who Killed Big Bird" sounds like both an answer and a tribute to Georgie Fame's burning mid-'60s instrumental combos. The former is engaged when Adamson trots out a tenor sax, flute, and brass section and burns the house down with its sweaty groove and greasy perverse swagger. Forget Big Bird, this sounds more like the money-shot score for a porn film that never had the class to get made. It's followed by the drum and vibes rhythmic shuffle that underscores "Theresa Green," an utterly gorgeous love song where dub bass, B-3, guitars, and strings all paint Adamson's voice in wish, ache, and optimism. In sum, Stranger on the Sofa is the most fully realized Barry Adamson project ever. This is it. After decades of giving us good and even fine work, he's finally treated the faithful to a masterpiece.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek