Up until now, Angus Young has mostly come to us as part of package deal, one half of the duo Angus & Julia Stone. Well, unless you count Lady of the Sunshine, Young's first solo effort, which was an odd mixture of the soft, acoustic-based songs that Angus & Julia Stone fans were used to and hard-hitting rock songs in the vein of The White Stripes or Rage Against the Machine. Now Young is using his real name for his latest foray into the world of solo artist: a new album entitled Broken Brights. Unfortunately, the album mostly only reinforces that Angus Young is better with his sister by his side -- Broken Brights again sees Young with a lack of editorial vision, putting together a misguided, at times confusing collection of music.
One thing is sure: Angus Young does not want to only be half of a sibling duo. Unfortunately, he doesn't know who exactly he wants to be in place of that. Broken Brights does the same thing -- easy-listening singer-songwriting -- in many different ways. On the album opening "River of Love," Young imitates Eddie Vedder's work on Into The Wild, utilizing a mandolin and sweeping string arrangements. A few tracks later Eliot Smith is an obvious inspiration. Later, "Be What You Be" is straight from the Graceland of Paul Simon. But most of all, Young draws from another Young -- Neil, that is, specifically from his Harvest and Crazy Horse days.
This bevy of impetuses is definitely strange to see all on one album, but at least the results are somewhat analogous. The real head-shaking happens when Young goes off the deep end -- first on "Apprentice of the Rocket Man," then again on the album closer, "End of the World." Young seriously distances himself from the acoustic, Americana player that he's worked so hard to establish -- turning into a trippy, Bowie-like experimentalist on "Apprentice of the Rocket Man" and a psychedelic dread-sayer on "End of the World." These out of the blue shifts are risks that flop. They dont work to pleasingly shock the listener -- they only anger.
It really is unfortunate that Angus Young's impulses are so all over the place, because a good handful of these tracks, taken out of context, are strong efforts. "Broken Brights" is a pensive ballad that repeats for good effect; "Only a Woman" is impressively epic. The ditty "Clouds Above," drawing on Southern blues but modernizing itself just enough with layered vocals, might be the album's strongest track. But making a good album isn't about taking ten to twelve good songs and clumping them together. It's like putting together a championship-caliber basketball team. All of the songs need to have chemistry, a common mission statement. They need to serve a greater good. This is where Broken Brights certainly fails.
Watch the video for the title-track "Broken Brights" below.
And for some classic Angus & Julia Stone, watch their session at Rockwood Music Hall.