Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Ian Brown has a quiet charisma that makes him one of the most magnetic personalities in British rock. Like Liam Gallagher (who borrowed some of his schtick from his Mancunian compatriot), Brown isn’t a showy stage presence, but he does exude this brash arrogance that makes him compelling, even if a few people find him exhausting. In the past, that’s only been a small part of his music, whether it was the Stone Roses or in his surprisingly fruitful solo career. Ripples tries something different, though: this is an album that’s all sneering attitude. Less a piece of music than a series of rants set to melody, Ripples would be the sort of daring misstep that garners grudging respect if the whole thing didn’t sound so disappointingly tired. One would expect Ripples to have some spark to it. After all, this is the first album from Brown after nine years away from the studio, and it’s the first piece of new music he released since getting back together with the Roses for a series of shows. Yet Ripples comes up short if one is looking for grand statements or bold new directions. The closest one gets to anything of substance from Brown is opening track “First World Problems,” a groovy number that he sings with the perfect level of sneering contempt. However, it all subsequently falls apart as Brown settles to loop the lyric over the course of five minutes; it’s less a song than a mantra about how much rich kids suck. Worse still, “Problems” is about as substantive as Ripples gets. The rest of the album is relaxed to an infuriating degree to the point that Brown can’t even seem to decide on a particular style or aesthetic to follow over the course of the album. A few covers liven proceedings up, particularly the rendition of Barrington Levy’s “Black Roses,” but the album as a whole feels aimless. There are attempts to make something centered around groove and rhythm, but none of the songs are bright and punchy enough to get one out onto the dancefloor, nor do they share Brown’s engaging personality. This isn’t to say that Ripples is an out-and-out bad album, but it simply sits there and does little to draw a listener in. One can’t help but be drawn to the beginning of Brown’s solo career when considering what is easily the weakest entry in said career so far. It was a genuine shock when everything coalesced the way it did on Golden Greats. Even when Brown fucked up, his fuck-ups were the result of unrealized ambition and biting off more than he could chew. Ripples has none of that: it’s a bland, lifeless experience that numbs the senses and passes along without much of a fuss. After almost a decade away from the studio, Brown seems wholly unconcerned with making an impression, and it shows in the way that Ripples just washes over the listener with all the force of a raindrop falling into a puddle.