Ryan Ferguson - Only Trying to Help (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Ryan Ferguson

Only Trying to Help (2007)

Better Looking / EastWest

Too many members of popular bands try and parlay their group success to solo success. I won't single anyone out here, but let's just say that Ryan Ferguson is not the first person to make the assumption that playing guitar in X band means you can play the guitar and write songs all on your own.

In this case, the 'X' can be filled in by one of California's favorite indie rock sons -- No Knife.

Unfortunately, unlike his former project, this one lacks both replay value and a concise direction. Ferguson's plaintive demeanor is charming and likeable, but it's not gripping; it's not challenging; it's not enough to give any of the songs the kick out of the realm of ‘boring' they so desperately require. The album has such a ‘ho-hum' feel that by the time the first three songs are over, you're so hopelessly stuck in the doldrums a nuclear explosion outside your window couldn't pull you out.

To his credit, and he does deserve some, Ferguson does play every instrument that appears on Only Trying To Help. From electric to acoustic guitar, chimes to percussion, it's apparent that he does have solid pop sensibility. "The Imposter" is a whimsical four-and-a-half-minute song that's as close to memorable as anything on the album, and it's because unlike most of the other 10 songs, it's got an undeniably earnest feel to it. Ferguson's vocal range may be limited, but when it's hushed down to a whisper and accompanied by some light electronic ambience, it positively shimmers. The warmth hangs off of every single word, and there's genuine beauty in how delicate Ferguson's inflection is. The album's short-lived attempt to get off the ground is dragged back down to earth by the followup, "In the Sea," because the mixture of chimes and acoustic guitar don't sit well with the vocal style. It's not awful by any means, but it suffers from the inability to be memorable.

Ryan Ferguson has talent; that much was clear from his days in No Knife and it's still clear today. He's got the skills to write memorable songs, "The Imposter" lets me know they're there, it's just a matter of those skills being brought to the forefront.