Tom Hooper

The Unexplored Cosmos

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Though the Grapes of Wrath reunion was somewhat unexpected, it actually resulted in some top-notch tunes, and hearing the interplay between Tom Hooper and Kevin Kane once again on the Field Trip album was like returning home after a long journey. Consequently, it's all the more jarring that the follow-up is a Tom Hooper solo album. It's even more solo than it could have been, too, with Hooper performing virtually everything but the drums, handled on most tracks by his brother, Chris Hooper. While there's some good songwriting here, the lack of human interaction renders most of the album a bit sterile, making it difficult to fully appreciate the album's finer moments. Hooper also manages to throw out the occasional clunker of a lyric, like this one from the opening cut: "I'm the only one to whom I must lean on." Even the better numbers, like "Same Old Me," have the kind of stilted feeling you can best achieve by trying to find a vibe somewhere in your own multi-tracked parts. What makes the whole thing even more frustrating is that Hooper has re-recorded three tracks that he's already recorded in a band setting: "Try to Believe Me" was originally released on the first Ginger EP, and superior versions of both "Sell the Goat" and "Hitchhiker" previously appeared on Field Trip. It's a bit unclear just what Hooper is trying to accomplish by re-doing numbers that were already done well the first time...is he trying to erase Kane from the equation again? Or does he really believe that stripping the spontaneity out of the performances is preferable? Hooper even manages to drain the life out of two cover versions, George Harrison's "Long Long Long" and (bizarrely) OMD's "Souvenir." It all makes for a pleasant enough but ultimately unengaging listen; considering the general quality of the material, it would be far more satisfying if Hooper ditched the covers, wrote a few more new songs, and then redid the album with an actual band.

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