All Mankind’s biography says very little about the music they create, only that Simple Desire was produced by Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight, The Kooks). The almost non-existent description (and the fact that it was recorded in Liverpool) leads one to believe that the album will be another dull, generic indie record. Fortunately, the album has been notably undervalued.
The first track, ‘Open Your Eyes’, puts this idea to rest with a glorious, simple pop-rock sound reminiscent of The Killers or U2. The optimistic feel of the song is continued throughout the record, accompanied by a sense of urgency in debut single ‘Break the Spell’. Lively piano-playing takes the lead, making way for singer Rich Beeston’s haunting vocals. The angular guitar riff in the middle eight distinguishes their music from a band settling in to the mediocrity of most radio pop-rock. The song is well crafted and pulled off with such elegance and style that it’d be a shame if it doesn’t propel the band into bigger things, reflected by the song featuring as the theme for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and being used in the soundtrack for FIFA 12.
Title track ‘Simple Desire’ is a more relaxed affair, with minimalist guitar supporting the theme of the song before building up to a striking crescendo. The song then settles back down, impressively so, thoroughly earning the status as title track. This is followed by ‘Lover’s Song’ and recent single ‘Can You Hear Me?’, both of which stick to the same formula but maintain the standard set by the first few songs. ‘Magic Moment’ is a standout track, starting with a fast, poppy intro continued into the verse; muscley guitar suddenly interrupts, accompanied by falsetto vocals.
Unfortunately, ‘Hollywood Tonight’ and ‘I’ve Been Looking for This’ tread no new ground, and sound disappointing as a result. Individually, the latter is one of the finest tracks on the record, but is held back due to the style becoming slightly overused. Closing track ‘Lay Me Down’, however, sounds not too dissimilar to Simon and Garfunkel, having slowed the tempo and focusing on relaxed piano and guitar, refreshing the listener.
As a whole, Simple Desire is a remarkable album and a solid debut, its only flaw being the similarity between songs. However, All Mankind have done an impressive feat by creating eleven quality songs in a genre that can easily become generic. The songs may not be instantly catchy, but make perfect background music without being boring, and multiple listens prove ultimately rewarding.