Northern singer-songwriters tend to be self-assured and Rob McCulloch is no exception on this confident first album. What surprises the most, however, is how mature this record sounds considering he is a mere nineteen years old. This can be a blessing as well as a curse. On the debit side, 'Thoughts Alone' is often weighed under by some soft-focus MOR arrangements which will evoke inevitable comparisons with soundalike local Richard Ashcroft and his undemanding solo releases. Furthermore, there are certainly a few occasions when he tries too hard to emulate his peers (from Oasis to namesake Ian). Yet McCulloch is better served by the heartfelt 'Take Me Whole'; a perfect showcase for his passionate, throaty vocals. Praise is also deserved for the distorted rock of 'Questions In Disguise' and - best of all - the bruising, introspective 'Fucking With My Mind'. Which leads one to believe that McCulloch would to well to eschew the safe, lush route and instead embrace the imperfections in both sound and through his own self-analysis. Yet whatever route he takes next, McCulloch's cocksure persona and vocal power is sure to win a large following over the next few years.