Released 16th September 2013 on Capitol/ Mercury
Thirty albums already under his belt and the Liberace of rock, Elton John, is back once again with another collection of piano-based old-time rock and roll tunes and grandiloquent ballads. I’ve got to say, however, that upon listening to this long awaited release I was somewhat disappointed with the must aroma of staleness that clings to almost every track on this record. I mean, as soon as the CD is placed in the player and the play button is pressed the listener is greeted with an opening track that sounds exactly like every other Elton John piano ballad that has ever been written. I mean, seriously; thirty-one albums and he couldn’t think of anything fresh to start with?
Things do begin to pick up a bit with the second cut Oscar Wilde Gets Out. Its brooding piano line and slowly building bass throb work wonderfully to create an impending sense of melancholy danger, but following this gem the album makes an unfortunate reversion to the tired clichés of Elton’s heyday hits. I mean, A Town Called Jubilee and Can’t Stay Alone Tonight would make for some great rolling road music if I was taking a drive back in time to the early seventies, but really their place in the year 2013 is dubious.
This sense of unoriginality is only compounded when John decides to act his age and try his hand at introspection. Diving Board and Home Again just throw subtlety to the wind in their overt grasps for the heartfelt moment and My Quicksand’s theatrical exploration of waking up washed up completely misses the mark of emotional connection and only succeeds in making him sound … well, washed up.
Cliché and uninventiveness aside, this record does have its moments of fun. The bold and bouncy chords of Mexican Vacation (Kids In The Candlelight), for example, holds a certain degree of catchiness and charm, and the gospel sing-along of Take This Dirty Water had me snapping my fingers along to the beat towards the end. This latter track might have been a whole lot more fun, however, if it didn’t sound so incredibly much like the Billy Joel classic River Of Dreams.
So, in conclusion I’d have to say that I was pretty underwhelmed with Elton John’s latest attempt to remain relevant. It’s not particularly bad or anything like that, but it is bloated and thoroughly unoriginal. I mean, rock-star status and industry longevity can only carry you so far when you haven’t had a new idea in the last fifteen albums, and with The Diving Board it seems that Elton John’s instantly recognizable name is starting to wear thin. Perhaps the crocodile-rocker (not that crocodiles are the closest thing the dinosaurs) might come back in a few more years with a record that really is new, but for now I’ll just say that The Diving Board probably won’t be a huge talking point for future Elton John fans.
And here’s a live performance of Elton John performing, what is quite possibly the best track on The Diving Board, Oscar Wilde Gets Out.
- Music Review: Weak songs mar Elton John’s album (utsandiego.com)
- FIRST LISTEN: Elton John’s “The Diving Board” (wncx.cbslocal.com)
- Elton John discusses The Diving Board – video (theguardian.com)
- Elton John and the celebration of gayness (quinersdiner.com)
- The Taxonomy of Talent (edbrittonblog.wordpress.com)
- Video: Carrie Underwood and Elton John Perform at 2013 Emmy Awards (aceshowbiz.com)
- Music to dance to: Elton John (valoriesapphire.wordpress.com)
- Elton John pays tribute to Liberace at the Emmys (cbsnews.com)
- Review: Elton John, The Diving Board (huffingtonpost.com)