Oliver Sim - Hideous Bastard Music Album Reviews

Oliver Sim - Hideous Bastard Music Album Reviews
The solo debut from the xx vocalist is a quiet work of personal exploration. Rife with growing pains, it occasionally hints at real beauty.

Oliver Sim has never been known for his vocal range. Expressionless, and clad in all-black, the xx vocalist swapped soft-spoken, deadpan lyrics about “words unspoken” and “silent devotion” with Romy Madley Croft, an equally laconic singer who has proven to be slightly more versatile. Accordingly, it may not be a coincidence that Sim is the last member of the group to go solo, and his debut album, Hideous Bastard, is produced entirely by bandmate Jamie xx. For the first time, Sim’s voice is front and center, lending the music a subtle, and sometimes frustrating, emotional palette.

Compared to his work in the xx, where the group foregrounds the textures of the songs ahead of the lyrics, Hideous Bastard takes a more personal approach. Upon announcing the album, the 33-year-old songwriter shared a statement revealing he has been living with HIV since 17. The project, as stated by Sim, was an explicit attempt to, as he wrote, “free myself of some of the shame and fear that I’ve felt for a long time.” These themes, compounded by the helplessness of youth, appear starkly throughout Hideous Bastard: navigating queer relationships, the expectations of his family and peers, a love so strong it’s debilitating. “I thought I could survive without letting anyone near... The moment I got that taste I felt naked and afraid,” he sings on “Saccharine,” meditating on a love more complicated than any featured on an xx track.

Hideous Bastard is at its best when Sim raises his voice and leaves his comfort zone, ditching impressionistic lyrics for something more concrete. Standout track “Never Here” features a chugging bassline, toe-tapping drum programming, and a propulsive synth. Sim’s vocal, beginning in a sleepy lower register, grows increasingly desperate as the music reaches its apex, transforming an otherwise imaginative lyric—“I was never really here”—into a rallying cry for anyone who’s ever felt like they could disappear at a party without anybody noticing. “Fruit” harnesses a similar intensity, marrying the album’s catchiest hook with one of its most explicitly queer and conflicted lyrics: “What would my father do?/Do I take a bite of the fruit? I’ve heard other people say it can’t be right if it causes you shame.” During the second chorus, Jamie xx ups the ante, harmonizing a siren synth with Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Sommerville’s gorgeous, wordless backing vocals.

Too often, the album is marred by a sense of vagueness. At worst, it feels underdeveloped: Sim’s lyrics end at confession, just short of an actual message or direction. These songs are full of deeply human feelings, but they lack identifiable human moments. The album as therapy is a tricky concept—one that lives and dies in the details, and as of yet, Sim’s songwriting is not up to the challenge. “Run the Credits,” which caps off the album, makes a swing for a radio single but comes up thematically short. “Psycho killer in a romantic comedy/Closing scenes of a decade-long trilogy,” Sim pines over soft piano on the hooky pre-chorus, setting the scene for the song’s big takeaway: Real love is nothing like it is in Disney movies. We’ve heard this before.

Sonically, the album also mines familiar territory. For the most part, it’s all stylish, dour synth presets and moody piano set to gentle electronic beats: You could easily mistake these for outtakes from a Thom Yorke solo album. Occasionally, Jamie xx interjects something that feels new, like the breakbeats on “Sensitive Child” or the choral arrangement in “GMT.” Like his work with the xx, these touches elevate, complicate, and refine the material, and Hideous Bastard’s middle section—made up of “Confident Man,” “Saccharine,” and “Unreliable Narrator,” all written by Sim without a co-lyricist—noticeably drags. As is typical in periods of self-discovery, Hideous Bastard is rife with growing pains. But surrounded by a trusted community, and in a few sparing moments of clarity, it hints at real beauty.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Oliver Sim - Hideous Bastard Music Album Reviews Oliver Sim - Hideous Bastard Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 Rating: 5

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