October 21, 2007

Review: The Return of "Mr. Del Amitri"

I was never a huge Del Amitri fan, but I've fallen for lead singer Justin Currie's debut solo album, What Is Love For. Justin describes himself as "living a quiet life of standing up and sitting down in Scotland with his two pet television sets." Whipsmart, he is, and it's reflected in his music. I didn't see this one coming. What Is Love For is a terrific autumn record, well produced, and the songs are there - great lyrics, strong melodies, arrangements that mix in some surprises.

Justin has a great sense of humor. Now 43, he has spent time since the Del Amitri break playing with people like Eddi Reader and Mull Historical Society's Colin McIntyre (a good thing). His myspace page, which he wrote, amusingly describes the new album as "eleven thunderously dreary dirges, many of which he is currently airing live to pained looking crowds of people in dingy Glasgow basements."

For a few weeks, I could not stop playing No, Surrender, a 7+minute rant on the fucked-up state of the world (get it free below!). It took me some time to understand this Dylanesque tune, but now I get it and find it to be a bit of a masterpiece with lyrics like these:

"Car caressing managers choking up the avenues
Brain dead patriots standing in salute
Paperwork raining again and again
So that billionaires can claim
There's an enemy to shoot.
Pill pushers, doorsteppers
Personal goal shoppers
Lifestyle trendsetters
Meditating mindbenders
Hairbrain sharesellers
Pumping out stocks
'Til you're choking on a chain letter,
Avalanche of dross"

Intriguingly, the song is not a bare-bones acoustic folkie, but a sort of cinematic epic with ominous Massive Attack-like stings.

If I Ever Loved You is a more traditional comedown ballad with a nice mutli-tracked vocal on the chorus. Out Of My Control sounds like a classic the first time you hear it: "All I have to do is fool around / Drag out this old carcass on the town."
Justin's wiki says he is engaged to his longtime girlfriend, but the album's lyrics suggest something different. Try these, from the standout Not So Sentimental Now: "If there's a trinket worth keeping, you'd better get it while I'm sleeping, soon, before the war breaks out."

Although the record is dark and midtempo, it's not a complete downer. Only Love actually is a love song, with the kind of daily details I miss in most popular music: "So many things that you must get 'round to / A dripping tap, a month's mail to sort through / If you could just get your mind to clear / But it's only love, and it keeps you waiting here."

Don't be confused by Currie's 80's pop pedigree. This is not Marti Pellow (ex Wet Wet Wet), okay? The album will obviously appeal to fans of Del Amitri, but also to those who like the morose beauty of Van Morrison or his lush-lipped "grandchild" Paolo Nutini. I have to say this album excites me almost as much as Suzanne Vega's has. Artists from the past who seem to be coming into their own all over again.

What Is Love For is out October 22/23 in the UK/ US. If Americans buy the CD via his myspace page (Lala widget) for $10, they can download it right away AND a physical copy is shipped too!

Autumn has not come as it should to America, but I'm ready to give myself over to Currie's kind of music. I can't do Girls Aloud everyday. This is dark, dreary and very good for a windswept afternoon in Edinburgh, especially if you are down on your luck. Or fucked up on whiskey.

Justin Currie No, Surrender expired
Hear the whole album at Justin's myspace now

Mr. Currie, today. Buy this record so he can buy a comb, poor man.


J'ason D'luv said...

Are these the guys that did "Roll To Me"? I think I heard that one in CVS the other night, while I was buying dental floss...

midnight lounge said...

...del Amitri did indeed do "Roll to Me", but iTunes some of their stronger tracks, to better understand the band:

"Tell Her This", "It's Never Too Late to be Alone" and "Driving with the Breaks On." They're really quite good!

xolondon said...

I deplore Roll To Me - the one where their heads are stuck on baby bodies. It is hard to believe Currie did that kind of music.

Anyway, will look for those songs - I like one called When You Were Young.

Paul said...

I haven't listened to this yet, but am mildly curious. The british music mags were all over it this weekend (in that it featured a lot - it got middling reviews) so i feel the need to check it out...

Doron said...

Good cover art.
He does not seem to have aged much, does he?