Review Summary: A first step in the a new direction for the boy from one direction as he tries to find his own voice in amongst a fetter of familiar influences.
There's something to be admired in the Harry Styles we find arriving with this record. A boyband member seeking a new 'serious' direction, without trashing his past is a rare feat and that as a concept hangs over this record in spades. Where Harry Styles may have raided his Uncle's music collection and his Dad's wardrobe to garb proceedings, that sense of boyband and the unashamed lust for proper pop is still present throughout and it allows the records mis-steps, of which there is many, to be forgiven in the essence of what feels like a joyous attempt at infectious pop rock. There are teething problems, most notably on the heavier tracks, Styles lacking the presence of Robbie Williams, who's solo work feels like the most obvious comparison to make the Stonesy glam stomp of 'Only Angel' work and there's similar problems of the pseudo blues rocker 'Kiwi'. The high points of the record come when Styles steps off the gas and hits a confessional mood. The Bowie aping Sign of The Times may clock in a bit longer than is necessary but as a single and a centre piece, it best highlights the strengths of Style's vocal (if also highlight how the quality of some of the lyrical content of this record would make the Gallagher brothers blush). Overall it's a first step in the a new direction for the boy from one direction as he tries to find his own voice in amongst a fetter of familiar influences. Harry Styles reaches for a lot of heights he doesn't quite hit but it's a fun journey getting there.