BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Justin Currie: The Great War (Ryko/Southbound)

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Justin Currie: As Long As You Don't Come Back
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Justin Currie: The Great War (Ryko/Southbound)

Some of these songs heard at a distance -- just the sharp pop and guitar jangle coming through -- and you'd pin Justin Currie as a smart power pop singer-songwriter who might give the charts some real damage.

But my guess is most people don't want emotional pessimism, venomous songs about partners and a seething rage bordering on self-loathing -- not to say a wide misanthropic streak -- as part of their daily lives.

That's a shame because this emotionally stark, acerbic  and sometimes downright nasty album -- by the former singer-songwriter of Del Amitri -- fires off some exceptional songs which will have you stopping and wondering "Does he really mean that?"

On You'll Always Walk Alone he reminds you in a beautiful ballad that this is a terrifying singular existence: "When you're swooning at the sinking sun with that special girl you string along, and from the shore you throw another stone . . . remember you'll always walk alone". 

And that to a lovely melody -- and then there's the gentle pop chime and soaring tune of Can't Let Go Of Her Now which is a desperate cling to the hope of love amidst his pessimism: "She makes a mockery of all I hold life to be, but in the end I come back home".

You may squirm at Everyone I Love which opens with "Tonight I'm gonna hurt everyone I love just to see if they love me . . . let my loathing out for a walkabout" or the relentless catalogue of negativism on the eight minutes of The Fight to Be Human (with the refrain "I hate the world they gave me": "I dig into my past now, I dig into my wrist to recapture the last time I felt the knife twist . . . I used to believe in the goodness of man but not anymore since I became one of them."

But this dark stuff -- which makes the young Elvis Costello sound as cheery as Benny Hill -- is also oddly redemptive and when the positive, hopeful moments come they are like a bright shaft of sunlight through black clouds.

And all this is wrapped up in memorable, often melodically seductive songs (the string-kissed The Way That It Falls) which wouldn't sound out of place on radio.

Like the great Matthew Sweet who combined power pop and pessimism, this isn't for everyone -- but believe me, this is one helluva great album. 

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larry - Sep 8, 2010

Great review. There is something about his lyrics that makes you ask questions about your own life...perhaps I just relate...but you can never think you know what this guy is talking about. He manages to write lyrics that can 2 or 3 meanings..which is an art all by its self...never mind the catchy melodies and great vocals. In my experience, I rarely get it right. But then again, I'm a dumb guy.

The Riverboat Captain - Oct 14, 2010

Deeply unfashionable. Bloody brilliant. Tragic that folks who love Guy Chambers-driven Robbie Williams songs will hardly ever hear Justin Currie.

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