Example is one of those divisive artists in modern day British pop music.
Starting off with a cheeky, danceable pop vibe with excellent debut ‘Won’t Go Quietly’, he quickly turned into a full lord of the dancefloor, sculpting party anthems that commanded nightclubs and summer music festivals alike. Since then, he’s had major label disputes, never learned the art of smiling and keeping sweet, and become a go-to guy for a solid dance anthem.
The question is: where does Example – a.k.a. Elliot John Gleave – go from here, and what kind of album will he create?
Live Life Living is that album, in all its imperfect, neon-soaked glory. Fortunately that frankly terrible title makes much more sense in light of actually listening to the title track which proves itself to be a joyous and irreverent house anthem with a truly fantastic breakdown. That goes, at least some way, into making sense of the rest of the album, which is led by the bright and brash lead singles ‘All the Wrong Places’ and ‘Kids Again’.
The entire album seems to be an homage, or a celebration of, the ’90s dance culture with Example soaking his toes in every sub-genre he can lay his mitts on. Songs such as ‘One More Day (Stay With Me)’ and ‘Seen You’ both are infused in the sounds of the ’90s, with the former constructed on a classic house piano refrain, and the latter complete with rapping skills and ’90s house vibes. Further along, the most adventurous cuts on the album are amongst its most enjoyable – opener ‘Next Year’ and ‘At Night’ are two sterling, cinematic cuts that evoke dramatic and edgy dance music at its finest, and will make up for lapses in Example’s back catalogue.
Elsewhere, Example provides some solid jams for dance fans – final song ‘Innocent Minds’ is perfect, high-energy fodder for a night on the tiles; ‘Can’t Face The World Alone’ has some gorgeous instrumentation; ‘Only Human’ is an enjoyable standout, as is the throwaway fun of ‘One Last Breath’ and ‘Full Eclipse’. In some songs, Example seems to be channeling both his dancefloor ancestors and his modern contemporaries – the bland ‘Longest Goodbye’ is a Moby song gone wrong, while ‘New Friends’ could have come off Tiesto’s superior recent offering.
It isn’t that Live Life Living isn’t enjoyable in parts. The real problem with it is that a lot of it feels insincere. Music goes in cycles, with a recent surge in ’90s-flavoured ditties emerging from dance and house producers across the globe; and while Example may indeed have a passion for the deep house and rave tunes of that era, the album occasionally comes across as a cynical cash grab.
Fortunately Example is one talented man, and Live Life Living is not without its charms or its fully-fledged hits. Next time, I can’t help but have a good feeling that he’s going to surprise us all with something incredible.