It is difficult to talk about Tim Wheeler’s debut solo offering Lost Domain without sounding offensive. Having largely been absent from the music scene for a number of years now, the Ash front man has returned with this frankly awful concept album. While we certainly cannot doubt the record’s sentiment or honesty (inspired by the recent sad death of his father following a struggle with Alzheimer’s), it is simply impossible not to question its content which veers from the melodramatic to the downright cheesy. Ironically, the record’s best moment is its opening three minutes, the pensive instrumental opener ‘Snow in Mara’, a deceptive precursor for the laboured mess that is to follow. After this point we descend into total maudlin with dreary, light-piano ballads like ‘Do You Ever Think of me’, ‘Hospital’ and over-the-top single release ‘Vigil’; songs that wouldn’t feel out of place at an X Factor audition. Kitschy central track ‘Medicine’, clocking in at a cringeworthy 10 minutes and 15 seconds sounds like it was recorded in front of a mirror in a teenager’s bedroom, while the lyrical content on tracks like ‘Hold’ and ‘Monsoon’ almost verges on parody.
Even at their height as a band, Ash always maintained a playfulness about them, veering towards pop territory with notable regularity, but even their most ardent fans would feel slightly queasy at the prospect of this insipid collection of throwaway ballads. Quite how Mr. Wheeler feels this record was a good platform to launch his solo career is questionable at the least and it’s difficult to judge exactly what demographic would find this stuff remotely interesting. Of course it is possible that critical reception and sales figures are the last things on Tim’s mind as he goes through what can only be a very difficult period in his life, but considering the powerful sentiment behind the album, one would certainly expect the material to be a lot more poignant than it is.
Tim Wheeler has been on the scene long enough to demand a degree of respect, and there is no doubt that this is a highly personal album to him, but such a serious subject would probably have been better treated with subtlety. Instead, by the time you reach the conclusion of the regrettable malaise that is Lost Domain, the record’s intended message is lost altogether.