BIRTH – Found A Way Out
In MacDonald’s, Robbie Williams’ “Angels” is playing. And a lively young mum is talking to her child, who looks about four or five: she starts singing along to Robbie. “This is such a cracking song,” she exclaims to her daughter, her voice bubbling with enthusiasm for the music, the kid, everything. “Now you listen to it, because in 20 or 30 years your children will be listening to it too.” It was a genuinely sweet moment. Who is going to sing along to Birth? I’m asking because Birth wants to – or says he wants to – make classic pop music, classic blue-eyed soft-pop music to be exact. The whole of Birth’s project rests on a double idea. That soft-soul like Hall And Oates represents a creamy pop pinnacle, and that nobody’s doing that sort of thing now.

Like most pop records which are secretly acts of pop criticism, it falls down. The notion that Hall And Oates are better than Travis isn’t really a controversial one, but Travis aren’t Birth’s competition: Robbie is, and Ronan, and Celine at a pinch, all of whom certainly are doing ‘that kind of thing’ nowadays. And on the evidence of the deeply pleasant, thoroughly unmemorable “Found A Way Out”, Birth doesn’t have the resources – financial or hookful – to compete. It doesn’t help that “Found A Way Out” has no emotional centre – not even a centre as corny as “Angels”‘ – beneath its precise sense of style: you get the feeling that Birth is banking for support on that segment of the critpress who love the idea of somebody doing something this faux-unfashionable but who would never be seen dead buying a Williams or Keating record. Such people surelty exist – I’m one of them, almost, and I adored a track like the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give”, which married gobsmackingly naive lyrics to a platinum-barbed hook and lush, cut-crystal AOR production. But I can’t even remember what “Found A Way Out” is about.

Birth knows his chops, and the single slides down very nicely: in fact it’s close enough to making its aims that I’d certainly be interested in hearing the album. But in the end it sounds like gameplaying, the sort of learned shuffling of pop’s deck which inspires endless writing and precious little listening.