Review: A Man of Many Melodies, Bruce Hornsby Isn’t Conflicted By ‘Flicted’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Bruce Hornsby/Flicted/Thirty Tigers
3.5 Out of Five Stars 

Bruce Hornsby deserves more than an insignificant amount of credit. Over the course of his 36-year career, he’s never stopped evolving and switching genres, even when it means doing an about-face on the success he attained before. He could have easily built on the template established with his hit “The Way It Is” and the homegrown style that immediately followed, but chose instead to shift direction with Here Come the Noisemakers, an album that found him piercing his previous parameters and delving into jazz, jam band, and even some classical conceits. The University of Miami School of Music graduate has incorporated an even broader array of musical avenues ever since, keeping his fans and followers guessing, but still delighted at every turn.

Flicted evolved out of two previous efforts, AbsoluteZero and Non-Secure Connection, completing a trilogy of sorts inspired by film “cues” written and recorded for Spike Lee while also delving deeply into thought, philosophy, and mediation, as shared in the majority of the album’s songs. 

Album artwork design: Chip DeMatteo, Album artwork photo: Kathy Hornsby

Opening track “Sidelines”  explores the topical theme of hysteria in all forms, dating back to — what else?—the Salem witch trials, but which remains an unfortunate phenomenon that’s reared its ugly head in light of the recent spate of extremist conspiracy theories. “Lidar” speaks to the environmental crisis, while “Had Enough” calls out indifference in the face of injustice. 

Nevertheless, the first several tracks may throw even longtime fans for a loop. “Sidelines” and “Tag” maintain pulsating rhythms and a steady pulse, but often come across as fragmented and discordant. The same could be said for “The Hound,” the song that follows. A take on the classic “Too Much Monkey Business” gets a makeover with a hip-hop beat. Nevertheless, the music returns to the melodic strains of Hornsby’s more elegiac work, offering a frame of reference that longtime listeners will likely relate to best — from the sweeping piano undertow that characterizes “Days Ahead”—which sounds remarkably at times like Brian Wilson in symphonic mode—to the melodic strains of Lidar,” the “Way It Is”-like narrative that characterizes “Is This It,” the sparkle and sheen of “Had Enough,” the stately feel of “Simple Prayer II,” featuring the tender shared vocals of  Z Berg, and ultimately, the dramatic delivery of “Point Omega.” 

Notably then, Flicted gives fans a broad overview of Hornsby in his most expansive mode and an album that represents him at his fearless best. Flicted is affecting, to say the very least.

Photo by Tristan Williams / Shorefire Media

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