Kwabs is quite a nice success story, in that he just seems like a straightforward grafter (who happened to go to the Royal Academy of Music). We’ve liked the man for quite some time – obvs the reason he is so successful now, duh – but the last year has seen his brand of pop-soul used in media like FIFA 15, the UK election coverage, and even an ad for, er, Boohoo.
Which sort of says a lot about the sanitised soul offered on his debut as a whole, positioning him at best as a modern-day Seal. After all, despite the synth-driven contemporary sound that Love + War revels in, there’s a teeny element of old-school Northern labour-club cheese that creeps through, leaving Kwabs a bit like a 90s boyband tribute without the rest of the boyband (come on, that chorus for Fight For Love is one Femfresh ad away from the whole act jumping the shark).
Being a distinctly pop album means that Love + War largely sacrifices depth for instantly-accessible soul. Not entirely a bad thing, given how much of a sterling performance Kwabs puts in with that distinct voice. It works a treat on the slowly-soaring title track, where he rises skyward on a cloud-formed elevator of synth and gospel backing. But those moments are few and far between, with the rest of his oeuvre being primarily serviceable as opposed to memorable or ground-breaking.
Which is a shame really, because Kwabs clearly has something there that ends up being squandered amid inconsistency and a lack of personality. It connects on the heart-baring, lighters-in-the-air Forgiven, oddly having just fallen flat on adjacent ballad Perfect Ruin. It’s radiant on the laidback Layback, only to be ruined by the dated Take That vibe of Make You Mine. Even being 12 songs long, Love + War is a record that outstays its welcome and still keeps Kwabs at arm’s length; essentially, there’s far too much war to wage here for very little love in return.
Love + War by Kwabs can be ordered here.