Edwyn Collins - Understated

A heady mix somewhere between contented positivity and gritty, look-what-I-can-do determination.

As ‘Dilemma’, the opening track of Edwyn Collins’ ‘Understated’ kicks in, you can’t help but smile. Not only for the fact that it’s a prime, soul-tinged romp with its galloping drums, forceful swagger and parping horns, but because it’s totally at odds with its parent record’s title.

Then again, if anyone deserves to be on the balls of their feet with their chest puffed out in unadulterated, life-affirming confidence it’s Collins. Whereas 2011’s ‘Losing Sleep’ saw him share the spotlight with the likes of Alex Kapranos, Ryan Jarman and The Drums’ Jonathan Pierce, ‘Understated’ rightly sees the attention focussed back on the man himself. As he croons in a voice which only ever seems to get ever warmer, richer and more distinctive on the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sunday Morning’-meets-Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’ of ‘Forsooth’, “I’m so lucky to be alive, that’s why I’m living my own youth.”

In terms of overall mood, ‘Understated’ is a heady mix somewhere between contented positivity and gritty, look-what-I-can-do determination. There’s the infectious, dancefloor-ready soul of ‘Carry On, Carry On’ with its well-crafted brass flourishes and backing vocals, and the similarly buoyant Too Bad ‘That’s Sad’, and the ‘La Ritournelle’-as power pop stomper of the title track. As he soars on the euphoric chorus of ‘31 Years’, “I made it through my life once more/I feel alive, it’s good to feel.”

‘Understated’ is inarguably befitting of a man who, via his early Orange Juice recordings, revitalised the Glasgow music scene (and if you subscribe to the extrapolation offered by the the BBC’s ‘Caledonia Dreamin’ documentary, Scotland as a whole). Whether it’s the records more outgoing moments, the brooding Dr Feelgood-lite of ‘Baby Jean’, or the stripped down beauty of the album-ending ‘Love’s Been Good To Me’, Understated’ is an expertly-crafted record that barely dips in quality over its 41 minutes. Granted, even now it’s difficult to assess his work wholly objectively given his recent, well-documented struggles, but strip away any unnecessary contextualisation and the record stands up proudly and defiantly on its own two feet. Much, it could be argued, like the man himself.

Tags: Edwyn Collins, Reviews, Album Reviews

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