The debut EP by Exeter graduate Henry Adams opens with strength and anticipation. Rich chords and a solid drum beat meet a short repeated piano riff to create a folky appeal on “Settle for the Same Thing”. Adams’ smooth voice is charming as he complains about blue screens, skinny jeans and Tories. The intro and the first verse are the best part of this song, which get lost in a sea of ‘na na na’-ing and plodding along choruses. It gets confusing to hear where choruses end and verses begin as everything begins to sound a little samey.
But, hope is not lost as the title track swoops in and takes over with a supremely funky bassline and dramatic piano chords, leading in to Adams’ vocals filtered through a chalky effect – almost as if through a megaphone – which makes more sense as he sings “we’re so through with the machine”. It could be a revolutionary anthem. Some jazz guitars with a little more stimulating rhythms enter in the chorus making it arguably “worthy of your time”, as Adams sings, while a thin, sustained guitar motif clashes, creating a haunted house vibe and an almost uncomfortable listen. A sample of voices discuss a topic that isn’t quite resolved quietly through the drums as the remaining instruments drop off one by one, and it concludes with a female voice declaring “there are things that are more beautiful”.
It’s all pretty political and dystopian, and then fades out into ethereal, spaced-out synths
We get a shift of pace and style on “Halfway to Heaven”, with a focus on the simple, regular rhythm of an acoustic guitar melody and Adams’ gentle falsetto. The song oozes tranquillity as a soothing appeasement to the contrasting previous tricky song. “Isaac Part I” fades in similarly, but with a more intriguing Benjamin Francis Leftwich-esque picked guitar pattern and melancholy tone. There’s a real sense of story about the character Isaac, whose “livelihood is up for sale” and is “threatened by the liberals”. It’s all pretty political and dystopian, and then fades out into ethereal, spaced-out synths which abruptly turn into the predictable rhythm of acoustic guitar chords for “Part II”. Perhaps there’s meant to be more concentration on the lyrics than the music that accompanies him – what he’s trying to say is more important than how he says it.
The last track, “I Found a Better One”, is at first perhaps reminiscent of Elbow’s Asleep in the Back, as it builds up into a ballad-style ending that could be the finale of a cheesy musical: he’s finally “found a reason to believe”. A strong storyteller, Henry Adams has some interesting ideas that sometimes work well. His strong political views make no apology for their appearance in his songs, but the variance of genres on this EP make me feel like he can’t decide whether his sound is a strong folk band, and acoustic solo musician or a radical politician instead.