Terence Trent D’Arby, the eclectic artist who became a critical darling and a commercial boon two years ago, delivers what is easily one of the most anticipated releases of the season. This curiously titled (meaning defying categorization) 12-track effort is the follow-up to his platinum debut, “The Hardline …” There was surely a lot of pressure to surpass the quality of that LP, especially considering the brash boasting D’Arby had spouted. Fortunately (for him and us), this disc is without question a quantum leap over that one. D’Arby — who sings and plays several instruments ― has written, produced and arranged a work that refreshes not only with its contrasting wounds, but in its provocative lyrics as well.
Drawing from countless diverse influences, especially Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder and Prince, TTD sings about affairs of the heart (“…And I Need to Be With Someone Tonight,” “This Side of Love” and “To Know Someone Deeply Is to Know Someone Softly”), social ills (“I’ll Have Faith in These Desolate Times”), repentance (“You Will Pay Tomorrow”) and homosexuality (“Billy Don’t Fall”). The music ranges from the lush orchestration of “It Feels So Good to Love Someone Like You” to the rocking swagger of “Billy …” to the funk minimalism of “Roly Poly.”
The lovely “To Know Someone Deeply…,” the rocking rhythm of “This Side…” and the Funkadelic-inspired shuffle of “Attracted to You” are probably the best single choices. However, the bluesy “I Don’t Want to Bring Your Gods Down” and the James Brown ode, “You Will Pay…” are not to be overlooked. “Neither Fish Nor Flesh” is a complex and extremely ambitious work that takes some time to fully digest. But with it, D’Arby has validated himself as one of the pop scene’s most captivating performers — and just maybe he’ll eventually live up to his own larger-than-life boasts.