Ian Ball, Who Goes There

Jim Farber

By Jim Farber

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Everything sounds dinky and adorable on Ian Ball's first solo work: tiny keyboards, a tapping drum, a boyish voice waft around the mix. If the recording had a cheek, you'd pinch it. But wait. Isn't Ball singing about taking enough drugs to bring down an elephant? And about impotence? And about losing his youthful hold on cool? And damn if these seemingly slight songs don't grow on you with every listen. Each time you spin Ball's tunes, they seem to expand in beauty and heft.

The Gomez leader gets a little help from his U.S. friends.

You may know Ball as one of a trio of writer/singers corralled into the terrific British band Gomez. Given the huge amount of talent crammed in that one band, it's amazing that Ball is the first of them to release a solo album, and after ten years together, yet. These songs were recorded casually in Ball's adopted home of L.A. with twelve musicians, all American. (Their home towns each earn a credit in the inside sleeve.)

For a British band, Gomez has always been uncommonly adept at Stateside sounds. But ultimately, Ball's unexpectedly deep songs best recall the late, great Ronnie Lane, the Small Face who knew a lot about how to give diminutive music big impact.