Let’s tackle the obvious first: Yes, he won the Brits Critics’ Choice Award, and yes, Lily Allen ‘discovered him’ ridiculously comparing him to David Bowie, and yes, NME gave this album 0/10 prompting Odell’s father to ring and complain, but no, it’s really not that bad.
Some background first. Despite what you might read, Tom Odell probably never asked for the hype. The Brits award was almost forced upon him; following four successive years of female artists being Critics’ Choice, a change was needed and he was the only man standing.
A BBC Sound Of 2013 nomination followed and soon he found himself due to support the Rolling Stones before even releasing anything. When the assured ‘Songs From Another Love EP’ came out late last year, it seemed we had a sure-fire hit.
So no pressure for the debut album then. And boy does it suffer from it. It starts well though, with opener ‘Grow Old With Me’ pounding away with emotion and verve. And while there is no doubt that ‘Another Love’ is the stand-out moment – a stark hauntingly raw moment echoing both James Blake and Chris Martin at their most tender – that intensity fails to keep up throughout.
The heavier moments mostly fall flat, while the slower tunes seem vacant. ‘Hold Me’ is fantastic romp in Odell’s live set, but seems limp on record, while ‘Till I Lost’ shows a spark of flair but is drowned in glossy production. Indeed after such a haunting debut EP, it’s a shame to see much of Long Way Down so overly produced with little light and shade.
The result is a dirge of MOR tracks and – unfortunately for producer Dan Grech-Marguerat – ends up reminding you of Keane’s sterile debut ‘Hopes and Fears’. Remember the excitement of first hearing ‘Everybody’s Changing’ only to be smashed by the dullness of the album that followed? It’s the same here, only a decade on.
It’s disappointing as Tom Odell clearly has talent, but the hype and desperation to make a decent record has resulted in something with brief highlights but mostly failing to emote or resonate. Decent enough, but not anything to make you stand up and take notice.