REVIEW: How To Dress Well – Care

We’ve never made our stanning for Tom Krell a secret. From the very beginning of Love Remains – and the EPs prior – we’ve watched How To Dress Well grow from a fringe ambient R&B act to someone that builds the bridge between genres to become more accessible without alienating his fans.

Until Care, that is. It pains us to say this, but in the rigmarole of being Antonoff-ed, Krell seems to have lost everything that made him special. It started appearing on “What Is This Heart?”, where the process of sacrificing his searing angst at the altar of over-production made it his least essential record to date.

Maybe we’re too married to the Krell we once knew, the one who employed shadows to mask the troubles of his psyche. Salt Song is a case where pop-rock Krell sort of makes sense, the whistle beat an interesting flourish before the guitar takes over. But it’s still all incredibly odd, like he’s fronting a new-wave indie-pop act as opposed to being the incisive auteur we know he is.

Meanwhile, What’s Up is another example where his foray out of the darkness has just left him at a very MOR place. If this is the Antonoff influence, then it’s a bloody relief when Krell shows more of his dominant side on songs like The Ruins and Burning Up. If the former is a relentless force of hip-hop refracted through the HTDW prism, the latter is a very much on-brand paean of loss and regret that recalls his earlier work.

In fact, Krell’s words are what keep it all afloat, as always a mixture of pop-quotable and intensely honest personal relation. It’s what rescues the dichotomy of I Was Terrible, a track that marries confession with pulsing beat to disorienting effect; it’s also the tool he (mis)uses to gain a wider audience on Anxious, a song that sounds like it was written for someone else when Krell says “why am I so pathetic? Why am I addicted to such attention? When all I want is that love and affection/ Had a nightmare about my Twitter mentions”. A far cry from the man who wrote Suicide Dream 2, that’s for sure.

It’s a frustrating listen, a Krell that’s trying to saddle two worlds and making the best of only one – the one that Time Was Meant To Stay and Made A Lifetime inhabit. Krell’s influences are open to the point of sub-parody, but the whole sensation is summed up in the 11-minute closer They’ll Take Everything You Have. The Collins-indebted 80s production fades to reveal a hidden track at the end, a piano-driven ache that soars with understated, submerged production that is the closest thing to Love Remains he’s done since, well, Love Remains. Care’s all well and good then, but clearly it’s when Krell drops the sheen and allows himself to be bare and reckless that he really shines.

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How To Dress Well - Care
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