Friday, December 01, 2006

The Popcraft of Deacon Blue

Deacon Blue remains one of the most underrated bands to emerge from the 1980s British music scene, never mind the fact that they were perpetual mainstays on the charts during their tenure in the business, and their sense of popcraft was impeccable. Surprisingly, with their recent new-millennium reformation, some interest in the veteran Glaswegians has been expressed by the usually apathetic masses. Therefore, it seems to be just about the right time to do a brief rundown of their classic studio albums.

The debut album was pretty much a straightforward pop-soul affair, redeemed from being a mere run-of-the-mill work by frontman and songwriter Ricky Ross’s instinctive ear for a hummable melody. The highlight is the stately dead-end job anthem ‘Dignity’, but other gems like ‘Loaded’, ‘Chocolate Girl’, ‘When Will You Make My Telephone Ring’ and the windswept title track, arguably Deacon Blue’s most dramatic instance.

The band tried on an arena-rock guise for their sophomore effort, and it mostly works, thanks to strong tunes like ‘Circus Lights’, ‘Queen of the New Year’, ‘The World is Lit by Lightning’ and ‘Fergus Sings the Blues’. Casual fans would be talking terms with the hits ‘Real Gone Kid’ and ‘Wages Day’, but the real highlight is the yearning lovelorn ballad ‘Love and Regret’.

A tribute of sorts to their hometown, this folk-inflected endeavour abounds with radio-friendly ditties like the fiddle-led, Celtic-pop shindig ‘Twist and Shout’, the rollicking Springsteenian anecdote ‘The Day Jackie Jumped the Jail’ and the spooky ballad ‘I Will See You Tomorrow’. Longtime disciples will point to the superlative pair of ballads, ‘Your Swaying Arms’ and ‘The Wildness’, as the real standouts.

Bringing in celebrity mixmaster Paul Oakenfold to handle production duties led inevitably to this electronica-flavoured work, which, while working to a certain extent, suffers considerably from lacklustre songwriting. Nonetheless, the politically themed, techno-grunge ‘Your Town’ is appropriately angry in the right places, and the strident, martial ‘Bethlehem’s Gate’ is a good example of this new direction.


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