Both Sides

According to Phil Collins, his first solo LP since the dour ... But Seriously (1989) is so deeply personal that he cloistered himself in his 12-track home studio to record it. A veritable one-man band, he laid down each of the album's 11 songs track by track. This solitary process has spawned a record even more deadly serious than Seriously itself.

Collins is one of pop's great paradoxes: an avuncular superstar who has made morose ballads his stock in trade. There's an honorable sincerity in Collins' effort to grapple with his vulnerability and social concerns on record. But courage and conscience don't guarantee depth, and Both Sides' message music is barely more trenchant than its lot of inarticulate love songs.

True to form, Both Sides is chockablock with drum-heavy dirges, droning synths, ominously ticking rhythm boxes and wailing, double-tracked vocals — all of which are now sonic clichés for the world-weariness, heartache and self-absorption that has become Collins' recurrent and emphatically one-sided story.

Certainly, the hits are here — "Every-day" virtually announces itself as this album's smash single. Still, too much of the music is fragmented, the melodies underdeveloped. An album whose very title advocates dialogue, outreach and the exchange of feelings, Both Sides fails to make its case.