Judging Venice, California’s The Great Escape’s new album on title alone is a strong indicator of what’s about to happen in your ears. Universe in Bloom opens with the radiant, infectious Let Me Go Wild, the sort of song that when played live would quickly fill a dancefloor before horn section, The Wild Rebel Horns entered the intro. Singer Ingrid Andersson’s voice ranges from flourished squeals to throaty pushes full of smoke and swagger. Her coquettish voice is at times reminiscent of Amy Winehouse in power and emotion but sticking to the throwback soul of the band (Kristian Nord on drums and Malte Hagemeister on guitar) dips deep into Motown territory. Following track, Good Day sticks in the mould of early 60s sunny soul, complete with xylophones and Supremes-styled background vocals. I Can’t Resist is a four-on-the-floor stomper full of organ snarls, stabbing guitars and horns behind Andersson’s sultry, raging voice. By the 4th track, All You Got Is Gold, the tone swings to a beautiful breathy Jagger-evoking ballad evoking Jagger, raw-revealing it all in Wild Horses. Sugar Sugar gets back to the stomp and jagged guitar formula. Life Is But A Dream opens with plucked banjo and strummed guitar in a cabaret style replete with Piafesque accordion. As with most songs on this fine album, it’s very cheery music. Better Together is a slapback guitar and horn groove love tune that ends by taking the leash off the brass and vocals. The World Ain’t What It Used To Be is when The Great Escape get dark. Ingrid Andersson vamps “Your heart is a ghost town” as she laments the title. All Or Nothing is a gritty, bluesy number that picks up into a riff-driven crunchy romp. The Ticket gets back to the brassy feel-goods and slides into an acoustic guitar and harmonica number, just to add another instrument to the list. The album closes with the bluesy short, but sweet Bad Reputation.
As a whole, this fine, fun album is a vehicle supported by Andersson’s unique voice, emotive horns, a tight Funk Brothers rhythm section, powerful guitars and an interesting variety of instrumentation. Recorded in the band’s studio with an array of musicians, it’s obviously their masterwork to date. It’s an easy listen, but won’t blend into the background. Some may complain that Universe In Bloom is overly sweet at times, but in an often bitter world, it’s immensely refreshing.