Polydor - 2004 - 39 minutes

As the Madchester wave broke in the early 1990s and the hysteria receded, Ian Brown remained. Quietly patrolling the high-water mark as Britpop came and went, his solo albums have maintained a steady if unremarkable presence on the fringes on the pop charts since.

'Solarized', his fourth post-Roses release, finds him expanding and refining what is unquestionably a signature sound. That familiar vocal drone remains mired in deep basslines and choppy rhythms, the lazy momentum of even the weaker tracks proving very difficult to dislike.

Long-time collaborator, Aziz Ibrahim, lends his writing skills and superb guitar sound to many of the songs here, his influence felt on most of the better moments. Indeed, it seems Brown was more than willing to leave the studio door open so others could contribute - in fact no two tracks feature all of the same personnel. Tim Hutton of Groove Armada and Noel Gallagher both add their respective sounds to the mix, with Hutton's trumpet adding texture to a number of the particularly downbeat tunes.

Of the rest of the standard, run-of-the-mill, downbeat tunes, 'Longsight M13' and 'Kiss Ya Lips (No ID)' emerge as songs of true quality, while the production of is of a consistently high standard. Although polished and streamlined, Brown's most accomplished album to date does contain some dud tracks. In most cases however, the strength of the music and the range of influences woven into it render any complaints irrelevant.

Ray Donoghue

Tracklisting: Longsight M13 - Time Is My Everything - Destiny Or Circumstance - Upside Down - Solarized - The Sweet Fantastic - Keep What Ya Got -  Home Is Where The Heart Is - One Way Ticket To Paradise - Kiss Ya Lips (No ID) - Happy Ever After