Music can be a complicated business. I know that has been the case for Simon Collins the last few years. With the demise (and possibly rebirth?) of Sound of Contact, Simon Collins has returned to his solo efforts. His new album “Becoming Human” launches on September 4th, and I am loving it.
Simon hails from London, and, yes, is the son of the legendary Phil Collins. You can hear that in both his drumming expertise and his wonderful vocals. On this particular album, Simon handles vocals, drums, and keys, and he recruits a great lineup of musicians: Robbie Bronnimann on keys, programming, and sound design; Gaz Williams on bass; Kelly Avril Nordstrom on guitars; and Robin Boult, also on guitars.
If you are fan of Sound of Contact, you will recognize much of the same lavish sounds on this album. In fact, some of these songs were originally going to be part of the sophomore SoC album. Simon offers a lush progressive pop and rock sound. Sometimes it has some edge, and sometimes it is catchier and has a hefty portion of electronica. Sometimes, the edge even comes from some very gritty electronic beats. I find that this album is wonderfully balanced, with some truly amazing moments, especially on the electronic end of things.
Additionally, Simon performs his heart out, and you can hear it in his emotional vocals. His vocal lines are intensely catchy, and you will definitely be singing these songs later, I guarantee. I would also mention that Simon’s lyrics, similar to his (and Dave Kernzer’s) lyrics on the SoC debut, are powerful, philosophical, hopeful, and daring. This album is about the inner power we all possess on our journey to becoming truly human. Let’s face it, we all do things that deny our humanity and the love we are supposed to show, and this album addresses these things from Simon’s perspective, especially as he turned 40 years old. “Becoming Human” is an album of introspection, resilience, and resolution.
The album has 12 songs, ranging from shorter tracks to 7 or 9 minute beasts. There is something for everyone here. For my money, the second half of the album is better than the first, and that’s really saying something since the first half is fantastic. The first half has songs like the catchy title track, the spacey musings of “Universe Inside of Me” (with loads of electronics), and one of my favorites, “This Is the Time”, which is so addictive and beautiful. “Thoughts Become Matter” ends the first half with emotion and clarity, too.
The second half has some monster songs, though. “I Will Be Waiting” starts this side of the album with a nice, slow first three minutes, but then the guitars kick in and the amazing chorus brings it all home. Another favorite, “40 Years”, this song feels appreciative and understanding, and superbly addictive. But, you know what I love most about it? Lyrically, it is probably the most mature song Simon has written, even with all the deep philosophical things he has produced. “So Real” is yet another winner with a fantastic beat, and a chorus that shouldn’t grab me nearly as much as it does. It’s subtler than some of the other songs, but it really works.
The final song on the album deserves its own paragraph. “Dead Ends” is a nine-minute perfect song, and it is certainly my favorite on the album. This song is soaked in electronica and mood. It grows slowly and atmospherically into a grand, yet dark song of amazing proportions. I love the reserved chorus that communicates so much with so little, but the song also has portions of bombast and orchestration that are so strong. This song is exactly why this album needed to be made, and I can’t get enough.
“Becoming Human” is a mature, intelligent, and wondrous release. Simon is growing, and you can sense it in his writing as well as in his compositions. The poignant atmospheres, tight melodies, and metaphysical lyrics demand your attention. Simon has crafted something very special here.
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