Mark Owen THE ART OF DOING NOTHING (Polydor)
Mark Owen has a studio in his garden shed. He calls it the Rabbit Hutch. Desolation Row might have been more appropriate.
Here's a lad who fills Croke Park for a couple of nights at a time with his chums in Take That. Since they re-grouped for Beautiful World in 2006, they've done phenomenal business. Three studio albums that each sold over a million, hit singles and sell-out tours.
Owen (41) is a personable chap. But since his Take That life began at 18, he's been through an emotional mincing-machine that stardom reserves for the wide-eyed and innocent.
In 2010, Mark's loyal fans, and his wife, were stunned to hear their icon of cheerfulness admit he was A) a serial womaniser and B) a drink abuser.
Owen's new 10-track album is billed as his first solo set in eight years. But it's not entirely solo.
Mark calls it a "project" because he roped in a bunch of musicians, producers and co-writers to help.
With him being so likeable and all, we wish him well. Indeed, as my Herald colleague veterinary surgeon Pete Wedderburn will confirm, I'm not the sort of monster who drags bunny rabbits from their hutches and kicks them. So let's just say, I feel Mark has made a mistake.
Does he really need blithering indie musos clanging away on their instruments? While not a complete disaster, there's a horrible feeling that these tunes wouldn't get past quality control in Take That.
Bravely, Mark allows his voice to sound vulnerable. I'm sure he could have let the producers make it sound stronger and brighter. But when on the blippy electronica Carnival, he sings "Am I a loser or a fool..?" you know that, kinda like a boy-band Johnny Cash, he's croaking from the heart.
Admitting he doesn't want to drag people into his personal misery, he opts for breezy alt-pop that lacks invention. And, worse, lacks killer hooks.
The heartfelt ballad S.A.D is a successful duet with Ren Harvieu. The single Stars is a slow grower.