Long before the release of Tom Odell’s debut, certain critics’ knives were drawn ready to give this middle-class lad a good stabbing. The recent stories about his dad ringing up the NME to complain about his no star review, and the contents of that piece, say it all. The reviewer wished there was a “particular place in hell” for this daddy’s boy and bridled at the idea he might be “all over 2013 like a case of musical syphilis”.
But although Odell has been primed for success by his early Brit award, it’s ludicrous to suggest that he’s as bland as the face of 2012, Emeli Sandé. It’s true he may not have the poetic qualities of lookalike Johnny Flynn but, at his best, he’s capable of sounding quite a lot like a mix of Coldplay and the late Jeff Buckley; and that’s no mean feat. Moreover I defy anyone who likes singer-songwriters to honestly say they believe “Can’t Pretend” and “Hold Me”, currently on many radio playlists, are not skilfully-executed examples of melodic folk-rock.
So why all the hatred? For the most part, I'd suggest it’s more about the image than the music. Not only was Odell educated at Seaford college, but he’s all to easily lumped in with Ben Howard, whose “Only Love” was one of the ghastliest songs of 2012. It’s unfortunate that Odell’s label have made Odell’s current single the similarly wretched “Another Love”, but don’t let that put you off. Most of the album is much better: “Grow Old with Me” is full of youthful yearning, the piano on “Till I Lost” sounds like the Waterboys, and “Long Way Down” is genuinely weepy. Moreover, at just over 30 minutes, Odell has had the good sense to keep things short and sweet.