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Album Review: Harry Styles ‘Harry Styles’

The president of the United States is a former reality TV star, Britain’s elderly population have condemned their young to a Europe free life and Nazism is progressing at an alarming rate; we truly are living in a post-One Direction world. For those hoping that Harry Styles self-titled, debut solo album will bring them back to the heady, carefree days of 2010 you’re about to get a rude awakening.

After laying low for a while post-break up, Styles hit the ground running with the first single of the album, Sign of the Times. It left even his most zealous critics a little flabbergasted because no matter how much you despise the efforts of former boy band members there was no denying the song was very good.

A languishing piano intro, Styles’ husky, tortured vocals and one heck of a breakdown made good for Styles as media outlets rushed to call him the new Bowie. While Sign of the Times might not deserve that high a praise, there’s no doubting that it’s the best song on the album. It rose far above his former band mate’s recent efforts, which range from slick, soulless R’n’B to insipid, acoustic folk pop.

Now, if you’re thinking that Styles and his team of writers would back the single up with an album of almost genre-pushing hits then you are plum outta luck.

It starts off strong with Meet Me In The Hallway, an ear pleasing testament to Styles matured musical knowledge and also his love of ostinato. Then things start to get a bit irritating.

Around a third of the album blurs into one long stretch of psudo-retro funk rock with Styles doing his best as the foppish front man. Carolina, with its jangly guitar and cowbell like it was ripped straight from an Austin Powers film. Only Angel pulls a sly bait-and-switch with an intro that promises a more introspective coda to Sign of The Times before Styles tears it all down with a shrill yowl and some generic glam rock. Kiwi shrieks about illegitimate babies and cigarettes in Style’s desperate attempt to seem like a big boy but mostly it just makes him sound like he’s singing overzealous karaoke.

Luckily, Styles manages to snatch back some credibility with the last three tracks of the album. Ever Since New York and From The Dining Table both rep soft easy listening ballads that would not be out of place on an upcoming indie bands EP with Dining Table coming off as more delicate thanks to understated vocal layers and strings.

The penultimate track, Woman is obviously what Styles was shooting for the whole album. It’s an attention grabbing piece of light funk that successfully does what Styles is so desperately attempting; fuses his love for old school sounds with the boy band slickness that he hasn’t quite trained out of his voice yet.

As easy as it is to rag on Styles, the boys needs to be commended for stepping out of his comfort zone. Even if his debut was a bit of a rag tag bunch of songs, there were still some pearlers in between the fluff and it’s laid the groundwork for him to build something better in his future. It might be a little too early to call but if One Direction was the 21st century version of N*Sync then my money is on Styles being a modern day Timberlake.

Album Rating: 2.5