Review Summary: The first solo album of Ricky Linden shows some potential.
Pure Ash Tray is quite a tricky album to discuss. The ideas are all there, and it is clear that Linden has the potential to make some very powerful music. However, there are some serious issues that obstruct the path of his artistic vision. First and foremost, the vocals are more than lacking; they are a complete flop. The vocal melodies are all good and the lyrics are moving enough to support them adequately, so in this context it is even more of a shame that Linden can't sing to save his life and whilst his voice does not lack passion, its tunelessness drags the album down like a lead weight and causes the listener to cringe rather than to become absorbed in the bleak atmosphere of the album.
The greatest strength of Pure Ash Tray is the way its haunted, melancholy vibe is conveyed instrumentally. Linden says that "The album is loosely based on a concept dealing with subjects such as nostalgia, mood swings, utilisation, rape, regret, shame and acceptation."
and this is obvious throughout the album from the searing, distorted riff of Mudswimming
to the haunting piano of Innocent No More
to the strange spoken-word outro of "Now?"
. Although he utilises a variety of influences and musical styles, Linden manages to maintain a gloomy, bleak and sterile (not in a bad way) atmosphere throughout the album. The lyrics, although they are sometimes obscure (Something strange/reminding about lice
) generally support this, as they are both simple and powerful, the best example being I was underneath the surface, thanks for taking me to the shore/all the thick fog around me, such a tumbling blur/I need to admit it now, let it go and find the right door/for all this time, all I wanted was to become pure
. The one good thing about the vocals is that the words are enounciated quite clearly.
The best song of the album is Innocent No More
, which seems to be written about a girl who has been raped, and presents this very well, with an almost-dischordant melody that conveys trauma powerfully, and a guitar solo that adds extra potency to it. The terrible vision of the song is supported by some of the album's best lyrics, such as Afterwards joking, how her screams were shattering /now she is all dead inside, while you got praised/she's just laying gaping, all of her dreams erased
(as before, they are simple yet effective). Other highlights include the somber You Came Into the Room
, the extended instrumental at the end of Pure
that concludes the album, and the strange outro of "Now?"
As can be expected from an album this obscure, the production is a long way from perfect, but is just about sufficient to drag the album down significantly. There is a lot of potential here, and a lot to be improved on. Hopefully, Linden will either learn to sing or find a decent vocalist and then return with a solid album #2.
Interesting variety of ideas
Lots of potential
1. Innocent No More
3. You Came Into the Room