Nervy in its ambitions, thrilling in its sense of influence-smashing alchemy, and memorable for its raw emotional honesty, Adam Gilbert’s A Generation of Forgotten Kings is an exciting find.
The title track opens A Generation of Forgotten Kings on an billowing, very Coldplay-ish note — as Gilbert makes a stirring call for generational unity toward change: As he calls “let’s see what we can do!,” the song surges forward with arena-shaking intensity.
Of course, there’s nowhere to go but down from there, and Gilbert handles the transition into piano-driven emotional complexity on “How Do We Respond” with a delicate finesse, adroitly laying out the doubt and confusion on the other side of the same question. From there, Gilbert moves deeper into a sense of elegiac reverie with “On a Hill” and “Steady as We Go,” recalling the most resonant of Elton John’s work without directly referencing it.
At his best, Gilbert mixes and matches familiar sensibilities like that, creating something that’s uniquely his own: “This Old World” and “Better,” for instance, share the satiny-smooth approachableness of AM singer-songwriters like Neil Sedaka — even if the subject matter is darker, more modern. Similarly, “Do You Want Me Now” has the brawny operatic sweep of the best Queen, with a touch of Radiohead’s naked openness. I hear Coldplay again in the rhythmically complex “I’ll Hold You In My Arms,” but without even a whisper of irony in the love-struck lyric.
“A Little Emotion” and “Were Accountable” combine the anthematic power of “A Generation of Forgotten Kings” and the turbulent feelings of “On a Hill,” while “Everywhere I Go” explores a torchy, closing-hour vulnerability.
Gilbert’s record finds its power in those depths of emotion, from the loudest crashes to the confidential, almost whispered pleas of “Stay Awhile.” When he powers up again for a rousing finale in “Listen,” completing the circle both thematically and musically for A Generation of Forgotten Kings, there is both a sense of closure, of a completed thought — and also that Gilbert has so very much more to say.