Simon Collins - Being Human
Simon Collins is probably best known as the drummer and singer for Sound of Contact. He is also the son of a former member of Genesis. This is his fourth solo album and first since 2008. The first thing we need to make clear is that his voice is like Phil Collins. We will not mention it again but let us have a look at the songs. The album is probably best described as electronic rock but there are influences from industrial, progressive and alternative styles too. There are lots of synthesizer sounds, samples, loops as well as fantastic drumming and guitar playing throughout. The album features Collins on vocals, drums and keyboards, Robbie Bronnimann playing keyboards, programming and sound design, Gaz Williams on bass and Kelly Avril Nordstrom and Robin Boult on guitars. There are twelve songs and it has a running time of fifty-nine minutes.
“Into The Fray” is short but eerie opening piece of around a minute. It would not sound out of place in a dystopian science fiction movie soundtrack.
Title track “Becoming Human” is the first proper song on the album. There are drums heavy with reverb and synthesized basslines. The chorus has a simple guitar riff after the vocals that works well. It was chosen as the first single and I can see why. It is very catchy.
“The Universe Inside Of Me” has a similar vibe with the drums and synth bass. The chorus gets quite heavy and there are plenty of distorted guitars. About half-way through is a middle eight with some cool synth sounds. The guitars, bass and drums drop out after four minutes with some Vangelis style synth washes before coming back in about a minute later with some glitchy electronic sounds before the chorus repeats. One of my favourites on the album.
“Man Made Man” has a sound a little bit like early U2 (“I Will Follow” comes to mind) but with added influences from 2004 Soulwax with a bit of Anathema mixed in. A similar length to the title track, it is another that could have been a single.
“This is the Time” has more of a ballad sound. There are even string sounds and what sounds like a sitar but is probably just a synth. The drums are heavy and drive the song, giving it a hard edge. Another one with a very catchy chorus.
“Thoughts Become Matter” was co-written by Dave Kerzner. It opens with a low octave droning arpeggiated synth sound. The heavy drums and guitars come in during the verses and chorus. It sounds a lot like Pure Reason Revolution on their second and third albums but with a few little synth sounds influenced by Orbital. I especially like when the sound becomes quieter around the three-minute mark before getting heavy again about thirty seconds later. Just when you think it has finished at the five-minute mark, you get another thirty seconds of strange noises. Another of my favourites.
“I Will Be Waiting” opens with string sounds and piano and is another hard-edged ballad. This is one of the songs that has a definite Nine Inch Nails vibe and would fit in perfectly on the Pretty Hate Machine album. At seven minutes long and with plenty going on with the electronic drums, heavy guitars and synths, it is another of the highlights. My second favourite song on the album. Stunning.
“No Love” is a bit different. While there are some basslines that sound like New Order it also has a commercial sound that remind me of Coldplay and U2. There are some cool Orbital sounds though. Not one of my favourites but a good quality pop song.
“Living In Silence” was the second song co-written by Dave Kerzner. This one has a bit more power compared to the last song. There is a nice riff, great synth sounds in this and some subtle electric piano sounds.
“40 Years” is another song with a U2 influence. I really like the treated acoustic and slide guitar on this. It has a country vibe and I could imagine this stripped down to voice and acoustic guitar and played around a campfire.
“So Real” is another song with a Coldplay sound but has more of an epic vibe. I like the guitars on this one. They are jangly and drenched in reverb and chorus. I could imagine hearing this one the radio in a parallel universe where it would be a big hit.
“Dead Ends” is the longest song on the album and drops the tempo down after “So Real”. It starts with droning and low octave synth pads before leading into a delicate and beautiful piano riff of two alternating single notes with an occasional single low octave note. The dynamics change during the chorus with electronic drums and heavy guitars kicking in. It is my favourite song on the album and an epic way to finish.
I probably love electronic music as much as I love progressive rock and thrash metal (Megadeth is my favourite). I can hear influences on this album in the instrumentation, song writing style and vocal melodies from bands such as Anathema, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, New Order, Nine Inch Nails, Orbital, Pure Reason Revolution, Soulwax, U2 and Vangelis as well as prog bands such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes (some of the same influences as Sound of Contact). It may not be a concept album but many of the songs’ lyrics have the same theme of trying to maintain control of our own humanity in a world full of too much technology, mass media and social media turning us into robots. Simon Collins has made a superb electronic rock album and one of my albums of the year.