Album Reviews: Marcus Collins, Estelle and Sound Of Guns

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It’s interesting to note that where in 2011 three X Factor finalists timed the release of their albums to capitalise on the Christmas peak period for CD sales, this year there’s greater haste to get some product on record store and supermarket shelves.

First out of the traps is Marcus Collins, a one-time hairdresser, from Liverpool, who was a protege of X Factor judge Gary Barlow. In keeping with most of the material he performed on the show, it’s horn-drenched pop-soul lite, competently sung but lacking grit or strong personality.

The new material here – including Barlow’s Feel Like I Feel – is forgettable, while covers of Higher & Higher and Tightrope are fizzy but inferior to Jackie Wilson and Janelle Monae’s originals.

The faux Motown reboot of Seven Nation Army, the White Stripes song, is the standout – but even the arrangement of that is almost identical to the one released last year by French singer Ben l’Oncle Soul.

It’s symptomatic of an album that feels rushed.




“I’m a-say whatever I like ’cause that’s me/You can take your opinions and eat cheese” raps the Mobo and Grammy award-winning R&B singer Estelle Swaray in the opening track of her third album. The 32-year-old Londoner probably won’t worry too much, then, about the reaction to a record that sounds like it was precision-crafted for American, rather than British, ears.

Guests are plentiful – Akon, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Rick Ross, Wyclef Jean and Janelle Monae all hook along for the ride; John Legend was executive producer. Most songs seem to have been written by committee – Wonderful Life credits five writers, International (Serious) has six. Throughout it all there’s a focus on slick, MP3-friendly, beats-and-treble production.

Admittedly current single Thank You has a lovely keening melody, but that’s on loan from 70s disco group Creative Source. And who thought this album needing padding out some tedious between-song conversation? A disappointment.

Sound of Guns

Angels & Enemies


It seems that, whatever the year, if a band can pull off reasonably accomplished, faintly aggressive and no-nonsense northern rock that there’s a ready-made audience of pint-clutching, middle-aged fellas ready to take them to their hearts – just ask Noel and Liam, The Courteeners and their ilk.

That Liverpool’s Sound Of Guns haven’t become household names since the release of their 2010 debut What Came From Fire is therefore something of a surprise, as, unremarkable though their songs tend to be, they’re masters at charging about from anthemic Snow Patrol-esque grandstanding to early Oasis-style gobby riffing.

The follow-up continues in the same vein, with songs like Antartica upping the ante with sawing strings, chiming guitars, plashing cymbals, rumbling toms and singer Andrew Metcalfe’s righteous holler.

Yet, while the band have all the right move, Angels & Enemies struggles to make an impact.

Perhaps it’s the lack of lyrical hooks that are hampering them, as it’s only really End Of The World’s baffling proclamation “It’s not the end of the world, cos the end of the world is over” that has the potential to embed itself as a singalong refrain.

Jesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Picture: Gary Brightbart

Gig review: Jesca Hoop at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds