Former Del Amitri frontman Currie is one of those artists beloved by ardent fans yet baffling to non-believers. Devotees will bask in every couplet of his narrative, textbook-shaped songs on this second solo album. Others may find it all predictable and one-paced, and seemingly labouring under the credo that sonic adventure died about 30 years ago.
The man himself thinks 2007's What Love Is For was the dreary introspective one, and that this is a brighter, upbeat offering. Yet putting a straightforward backbeat behind bog-standard verse-chorus-middle-eight structures doesn't necessarily make them any more sparkly or arresting. After 10 minutes of this album, the layman knows nothing surprising or novel whatsoever is going to happen. It's the kind of stuff you picture Jools Holland guesting on, even if he isn't.
If he's sonically conservative then, maybe he's conservative like somebody like Elvis Costello, often using mild country-rock to veil dark seething undercurrents? That would be a kind reading. The music throughout is flat and dated. If Currie has strengths, they lie in his lyrics, and this clearly is the area which fires up his supporters. He writes of romance realised and thwarted, of melancholy wallowed in or shaken off, with intelligence and sincerity.
Most songs have clever twists, with punch-lines or "reveals" (his words). Usually you can see them coming. The curveball here is Everyone I Love, which catalogues a list of impure intentions, its narrator a bad-ass mofo, who declares "tonight I'm gonna hurt everyone I love / just to see if they love me". He gives "his bitter side a little exercise". It's by far the album's most engaging track, because it's unexpected and cathartic. "I'm taking everybody down," he grizzles, as guitars get dirty and squawky and the rhythms venture into Bad Seeds territory. There's no leavening twist either. "I wanna wreck what everyone expects of me," he sings. You just wish he'd done that earlier, and with more imagination.
Currie's old-school craftsmanship is rigorously solid, and his lyrics considered and honed, but there's something moribund about his music which needs a firework up its butt.