Sweet Disarray was unquestionably and deeply anticipated. On “From Nowhere”, Dan Croll’s debut single all the way back in 2012, the simple pop-infused sound he’d put together was beat-driven, and keys-punctuated. Croll’s vocal was something to behold too, it was straight forward, inoffensive but wildly endearing and was always given plenty of room to breathe. It had music fans aching for more, and so, he gave it to them. He released “Compliment Your Soul”, with the same keyboard-driven, dry, inoffensive, and often soft vocal formula. At the same time it was both the same and more. With two solid, upbeat and above all interesting tracks behind him, Croll played on his early success and carried on this trend for another couple of singles. An album was inevitable, though a long time coming – but based on what had been released so far, potential was practically infinite.
Now, it’s 2014, and Sweet Disarray is with us. And did it live up to the hype? Sadly, no. The tracks released by Croll up to this point are clearly his best work. It’s understandable that this would be the approach. With fewer and fewer copies of full length records being sold the single is fast becoming the selling point for an artist. But with Croll, with so much strong work already out there, the remaining tracks that made up his album should have sounded a little less, well, like simple album tracks. For those that have followed Croll up to now, there’s certainly a margin for disappointment.
“From Nowhere”, now two years old, remains his strongest track – and it is so strong that when sided along with the likes of “Thinkin Aboutchu”, which is similarly simplistic, but with a less powerful beat, and a vocal delivered with about 50% as much effort, the whole thing sounds decidedly wishy-washy.
That’s not to say the album lacks worth – collating all his previous singles already makes this album far more than decent, and there are new treats in the form of late-album tracks like “Maway” which teases, not for the first time on this record, some African-inspired percussion and soaring vocal patterns that clearly required an ear for the unexpected when written. But at the same time, previous singles such as ‘Home’, the album’s closer, beautiful as a standalone ode to the personal dwelling feels like a strange way to end an album. When so much is mid-beat pop, a slow-paced finish plays out like the puttering of an old car at the end of a cross-country road trip.
The fact is, Croll should have released this album much earlier. It must be said that Sweet Disarray is gloriously self-produced, and his dedication to making a record that didn’t sound like 12 “From Nowhere” clones was entirely the right approach, but it would have been much stronger released straight off the back of that song. But instead, 18 months down the line, and the bar was too high. Instead, the album mirrors its own artwork – a photo of Croll standing, largely expressionless surrounded by swirling colours of pink and purple and yellow. That is to say, Croll has some great, great tunes but they so often artfully distract from the rest of his approach, which can often be minimal, and lacking in effort.
The point is, this album will garner numerous reviews that call him vibrant, allude to his ‘Scousepop’ background, and give him a slightly above average three star review. But none of them will have the guts to say, Dan, you could have done better.