To get it out of the way: a dodo, a rhea, an emu, a penguin. “Fly Away” has the same chance of getting off the ground as any of them – a stolid, earthbound tramp of a song, anchored by a riff and a groove that does too much to be actually heavy but never enough to soar. Perhaps that’s the point – flight as an impossible aspiration. If so, Lenny makes it too hard and too long. Its basic rhymes poke weakly at me – wish I could FLY so very HIGH like a dragonFLY – but Kravitz gives them a throaty push to let me know he’s shooting for passionate, meaningful even. After a bit it strikes me – this circular trudge is a shoegaze record with the effects turned off, a #nofilters snapshot of a Ride song. And who needs that?
When I first bumped into Lenny Kravitz, the comparison was to Hendrix. This was unfair to both Kravitz – whatever his clear attraction to 60s rock, you could hardly accuse him of limiting himself to one inspiration – and, rather more obviously on this showing, Hendrix. So out of all the possible influences that you could name, why Jimi? I guess the world’s media showed the same sparkling imagination when faced with a black rock dude as directors of airline ads displayed when this song came their way.
With a little distance, “Fly Away” seems more like an early incarnation of the staunchly revivalist rock strain we’ll meet a couple of times in the 00s – though less aggressively self-important than tracks by the Stereophonics or Jet, less intriguingly hermetic than something like the White Stripes, less interesting than almost anything, come to think of it. Kravitz had, in fairness, more range than this single suggested. But if you wanted something whose plain aim was to sound like rock music was meant to sound and not much more, “Fly Away” was your jam. The hook is sturdy, the beat chugs economically, you can jab the air to it and still keep a hand on the wheel. To the stars! Or maybe Mars! Or then again, maybe not.