American cartoonist Scott Adams says, "Nothing inspires forgiveness quite like revenge." While the topic of forgiveness is not approached in his recording, "Lovers and Other Kinds of Monsters", one can still sense that singer-songwriter Ross Crean is longing to get to a place where he can do just that. Written and recorded in a single weekend in Chicago, Crean used a "very tumultuous" relationship to bring out what he felt like he was never able to do before: to express his anger, and quite unapologetically. The classically-trained vocalist's previous recordings have brought him comparisons to easy-sounding artists such as Josh Groban, but have also been praised for stepping out of that realm, due to Crean's tendency to write songs that put it's listeners on edge with his unique approach to songwriting. Ross' voice, even in "Lovers", can still bring warm and fuzzy feelings to us faithful listeners.
But make no mistake...this IS a revenge album.
"When I recorded 'This Too Shall Pass' and 'Blackwater', I was in what I felt was a safe and secure place," Crean said, "but after 'Blackwater' came out, all these little chaotic and traumatic issues came forward, both past and present. I literally hit my breaking point."
Crean says that an unexpected relationship made him confront a lot of unresolved issues. "So many of my past issues are centered around abuse, drug use, and abandonment, and I always felt like I was stronger than it all...that I was able to conquer it all, but then I met someone whose actions mirrored all those issues and forced them back to the surface. I fell for someone who couldn't be honest, and constantly contradicted themselves by doing one thing and saying another. It messes with one's head."
After a taking a break from it all and going back to England for a month to reevaluate his situation, Ross came home to what he thought might be a friendship on the mend, but soon the chaos reared its ugly head. "I was told over and over again that I would see how much I was cared for. Then, on St. Patty's Day in 2008, I got a call in the middle of the night from this person telling me how important I am...that all my feelings were mutual...everything would be different from now on. The "L" word was even used!" However, it didn't last long. "A few days went by, and I tried to make contact," Crean said, "but never heard from them again. Even now, it feels like a cruel joke. It was cruel, cold and cowardly, so do I have any qualms about letting this recording out? Absolutely not! I was always honest in that situation, and in turn, I am being honest about everything in my life. Those who don't want to hear it don't have to buy it."
Musically, Crean knows when to pull back and when to let go. From the driving piano and percussion of the first track "Hollow (Give It Back)" to the subdued surrender of the final track "I Was Blind (The Coward's Lament)", he shows what control he has over a situation which was at the time out of control. Some other notable songs here are the chuckle-worthy "Gay Cops and Yellow Tail", in which Crean ends scream-singing "I LIKE GIRLS" repetitively, and the violently virtuosic "Lovers, Ex-Lovers", where he compares love to "looking down the barrel of a gun", followed by Crean's voice expressively singing "Please don't pull the trigger!" Personally, I fell in love with the heartbreaking ballad "Upside Down", where I think Ross deserves kudos for the beginning lyrics: "Circus is here/ to steal me away from this daunting year./ The freaks are much more normal than we are, my dear."
Granted, those who like commercial pop music will probably not relate to this recording (but I do hear a lot of commercial promise in many of the tracks here). However those of you who appreciate unique and intelligent songwriting with a gorgeous baritone voice will not at all be disappointed.
Will we know who the muse of the album is? "No." Crean said, "I think the listeners will get the idea through the songs. As far as this situation, this is my secret, and to let it out of the bag will make me the lesser person. Anyways, that situation has ended, and it needs to be done with."
Let's hope that while that particular situation is over, that this is just the beginning of a great career by a brilliant artist.
- Matthew Barrett, November 2009