Moss Side Story – Barry Adamson (1989) – Review

Moss Side Story - Barry Adamson (1989) - Review

The transition from band member to solo artist is often fraught with challenges and uncertainties. When Barry Adamson embarked on his solo journey post his tenure with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Magazine, few could have predicted the dark, cinematic tapestry he would weave with “Moss Side Story.” This album isn’t merely a collection of tracks; it’s an entire film for the ears, a noir narrative painted with moody instrumentals and evocative atmospheres.

The title itself, a play on Bernstein’s “West Side Story”, suggests a certain theatricality, but instead of the bright lights of New York, we’re plunged into the shadowy corners of Manchester’s Moss Side district in the 1980s. There’s crime, there’s drama, and above all, there’s an overwhelming sense of suspense that courses through the album’s veins.

From the opening track “On the Wrong Side of Relaxation,” Adamson sets the stage. It’s as if you’re walking through an alley late at night, every footstep echoing with anticipation. The dark ambiance, complemented by sporadic voice samples and foreboding rhythms, immediately pulls you into this imaginary world.

“Under Wraps” stands out as a tension-filled track where a chillingly calm narrative is underscored by eerie strings and horns. It feels like a detective recounting tales of the urban underworld, and the storytelling is just as much in the instrumentation as in the spoken word snippets.

“The Swinging Detective” captures the essence of noir perfectly. The jazz influences are unmistakable – sultry saxophones, soft percussion, and a bass line that seems to tell a story all on its own. It conjures images of smoky bars, fedora-clad detectives, and mysteries waiting to be unraveled.

However, it’s not all shadow and suspense. With “Free At Last,” Adamson introduces a fleeting moment of levity. The upbeat tempo, combined with the twangy guitar work, offers a brief respite from the dense atmosphere of the earlier tracks. It’s like a breath of fresh air, albeit one that still carries a hint of the album’s inherent melancholy.

“Cool Green World” is another standout, a beautiful amalgamation of jazz and ambient. It’s evocative and emotive, painting a picture of rainy streets illuminated by neon signs, of quiet moments amidst urban chaos.

One of the most impressive aspects of “Moss Side Story” is Adamson’s ability to convey narrative and emotion without the traditional use of lyrics. The entire album feels like a soundtrack to an unmade film, with each track representing a scene, a moment, a twist in the tale. The album demands, and deserves, attentive listening. It’s an experience that requires the listener to fill in the blanks, to construct their own narratives and draw their own conclusions from the sonic cues Adamson provides.

It’s rare to come across an album as thematically cohesive and vividly imagined as “Moss Side Story.” Barry Adamson, with this effort, has not only showcased his versatility as a musician but also his prowess as a storyteller. It’s a journey into the underbelly of urban life, into tales of intrigue and suspense, and it remains an essential listen for anyone looking to experience music that resonates beyond just melody and rhythm. Through “Moss Side Story,” Adamson has crafted a world that lingers long after the final note fades, an audial tapestry rich in detail, drama, and depth.

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