Review: Edwyn Collins – Understated
Published on April 3rd, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
His health problems are well documented, but Edwyn Collins’s work rate remains remarkable: the Orange Juice legend appears to be constantly producing up-and-coming artists at his West Hampstead studio, while Understated represents his third solo album release since suffering two brain haemorrhages in 2005. 2007’s Home Again and 2010’s Losing Sleep were excellent pop records as well as heartwarming testaments to Collins’s undimmed genius in terms of both songwriting and production, and it’s a pleasure to report that Understated rounds off the hattrick with a consummate channelling of all those classic soul and Motown influences – those that graced and enriched such erstwhile solo hits as “A Girl Like You” and “The Magic Piper of Love”.
“Dilemna” makes it clear straight from the off that his commanding, Elvis Presley/Scott Walker-esque baritone is still up to it, while the hazy daydream quality of his production remains delightfully intact. Understated does good by its title insomuch as it doesn’t try to be anything more complicated than a humble collection of pop songs, but there’s an underlying sophistication to the sly, strutting funk of “Baby Jean”, the descending minor 7ths of “Carry On” and sweet cowboy lament of “Down the Line” that proves hard not to luxuriate in.
Lyrically, Collins could scarcely be any more direct than he is on the “Sunday Morning”/”I Got You Babe”-ishly twinkly “Forsooth” (“I’m so happy to be alive / That’s why I’m loving my own youth / That’s why I’m living my own truth… I feel alive, I feel reborn”) or on the elegantly stringswept, minor-key pop of “In the Now” (“I’m living in the now / Working and breathing”). Nor could he sound much more playful and at ease than on the title track (“A graphic artist, I was / It’s an interest I’ve got”), which takes on a vast, wibbly guitar reminiscent of Graham Coxon on Blur’s 1999 album 13…
…all of which leaves the tender fingerpicking of “Love’s Been Good to Me” to bring the curtain down on a set equal parts movingly honest, life-affirmingly upbeat and masterfully melodic. A few wheels may get reinvented along the way, stylistically speaking, but they’re in good enough hands for it not to matter all that much.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Understated is out now on AED Records. For more information, please visit the official Edwyn Collins website.