Edwyn Collins: Understated – album review

Edwyn Collins – Understated (AED Records)
LP/CD/DL
25 March 2013

Edwyn….wait for it…… Collins has a new album out. Is it any good? Our man Paul Scott-Bates thinks so. Check out why below.

Blah.. blah.. blah.. Orange Juice.. blah.. blah.. blah.. A Girl Like You.. Blah.. blah.. blah…….

Yeah, we all know about those two things, but, what of Edwyn Collins now? He’s produced several great albums since then and Understated, his eighth solo one, is no exception. It’s a set of eleven well-crafted, catchy songs that are both instantly addictive and appealing.

He’s still recovering from a stroke and brain haemorrhages less than ten years ago which have precluded him from playing much more than ‘that’ voice on the album, but, his ability to come up with a great tune certainly hasn’t waned. Recording ideas and lyrics on tape and then bringing to life via a very accomplished band, the result is a fine collection of genres. Understated may be the album, but, underrated is what his songwriting talents are, filed away with Babybird under the ‘one hit wonder’ category, but, still pumping out stonking albums.

From the start the album powers along with Dilemma, “that’s me all over”, proving Edwyn’s credentials as a writer of great tunes, aided by a great horn section. Baby Jean has a cracking blues riff, organ and more horns, contributing to a real feel-good song.

‘Carry On, Carry’ has an almost Northern Soul feel, and ’31 Years is Motown’, with it’s catchy choruses and foot-tapping melodies & which continues a wonderful example in album tracklisting, engages the listener immediately. My only reservation would be can these tracks remain as engaging after several listens and can they sustain any longevity? Time will only tell, but so far they’re doing fine.

There’s a welcome breather in the form of ‘It’s A Reason’ and the autobiographical theme of ‘Understated’ now starts to shine through. ‘Too Bad (That’s Sad)’ is passive aggressive in a Northern Soul mould.

All the lyrics on ‘Understated’ are heartfelt and very emotional, and when Edwyn proclaims “As the years go by, I’m feeling my age” and “I’m a singer (of sorts)” on ‘In The Now’, you understand you’re listening to a man who is truly grateful of the position he finds himself in. When he croons “I’m so happy to be alive” on ‘Forsooth’, a lump in the back of your throat appears.

The album ends with Love’s Been Good To Me which is one of the most beautiful songs you will ever hear. Listen carefully and you’ll catch the sound of Edwyn’s tears.

I’d like to say Edwyn is back but he’s never really been away and if he keeps releasing albums like this he’ll soon be recognised for the great British institution that he is.

8/10

The Edwyn Collins website is here. You can follow him on Twitter here and do Facebook things here.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.

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  1. Another great review from Paul. He knows his onions. LTW should use him more, I reckon he could do great artist interviews. Well done fella.

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