Gibonni - '20th Century Man'

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Gibonni - '20th Century Man'

A good rock record from an unusual source.

f you were asked to write a list of your favourite Croatian rock stars, the list wouldn't be a particularly long one (unless you are a resident of Split or Dubrovnik, of course). Well, here's one to put on your list that you might have otherwise missed; Gibonni. This is his 6th album, but first in English, and he's evidently a well-rounded musician, able to write well-crafted pop rock songs. He's a big star in Croatia and the winner of Croatia's equivalent of a music Grammy. Imagine a mix of Zucchero and Joe Cocker but with the rough voices sandpapered smooth and you start to get a sense of the territory Gibonni works in. There are elements of rock, blues, folk and soul in his music that are blended together to create songs that wouldn't sound out of place on Radio 2 or a classic rock radio station.

It's most likely to hit a nerve with the readerships of Fireworks & Rocktopia on the more up-tempo tunes. The title track, '20th Century Man', is the pick of the bunch. It's a paean to the past with Gibonni singing that he's "Stuck in the 80s" (I think a few of us can relate to that sentiment), and he's "Still smoking in the office". It's a song that's able not to take itself too seriously but it rocks pleasingly with horns adding colour. 'Ain't Bad Enough For Rock 'N' Roll' is also a straightforward rocker akin to Bob Seger that gets the feet tapping. Adding colour to the songs is something Gibonni does well throughout, lifting the songs to a higher level such as on 'Hey Crow' where he mixes Croatian folk with rock and the children's choir on the more serious 'Kids In Uniform'. His voice is capable of emoting the lyrics very well, for example Gibonni delivers 'Nothing Changes' with such fragility that you can almost hear a heart breaking.

The album is ballad heavy and the slower pace of much of the material might put some listeners off, but for a warm sounding recording, well produced that owes a debt to the 70s and 80s (more timeless than dated), then this is a good rock record from an unusual source.

Duncan Jamieson

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