George Ezra - Gold Rush Kid review: Still singing with a smile - despite the misfires

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 (Adam Scarborough)
(Adam Scarborough)

George Ezra could have had a controversial moment at the Queen’s Jubilee concert last weekend. The Hertford singer-songwriter sang his recent single Green Green Grass, a jaunty number with a chorus that goes: “Green green grass, blue blue sky/You’d better throw a party on the day that I die.” Wisely deciding that the second line might not sound entirely positive to a 96-year-old during a massive party, he kept his mouth closed for that bit.

Of course he did. He’s a consummate people-pleaser, perfectly suited to family audiences such as the one outside Buckingham Palace and the viewers of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. He’s been a regular booking on the latter, delivering a charming seaside-themed performance of the previous single, Anyone for You (Tiger Lily), with Ant and Dec’s help in April.

When Ezra finally scored his megahit in 2018 with Shotgun, the third single from his second album, the song spent almost a full year in the UK top 40 without seeming to face any of the backlash that, say, James Blunt did for You’re Beautiful’s ubiquity. By the time it was appearing on Joe Wicks’s lockdown PE lessons, it was basically the national anthem.

Now Ezra’s on his third album, he ought to know what to do, but here it’s the songs that most faithfully stick to the feelgood formula that sound most like a struggle. The opening flurry of upbeat tracks is so bug-eyed bouncy and puppyish that it feels like you’re stuck inside the birthday cake at a children’s party. Previously his resonant voice and retro style could have put him in Johnny Cash’s vicinity – if, instead of becoming the Man in Black, Cash had decided to become the Man in the Unicorn Onesie. Now he’s modernising somewhat. Dance All Over Me edges towards the late Avicii’s mix of acoustic guitar and shiny club music, and doesn’t suit him at all.

In the second half he finds some depth and substance. His cavernous tones rise to a nice falsetto that suits the softer backdrop of I Went Hunting. In the Morning is another appealing change down a gear, although its layers of digitised voices mostly confirm that he’s been listening to Bon Iver.

There’s more death on the closing song, Sun Went Down: “I’m so happy I could die now,” he repeats. Despite the misfires he still sings with a smile, shoving the occasional trace of dark clouds quickly away. His loyal subjects will be pleased.

Columbia

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