Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First Listen: Justin Currie, The Great War

Justin Currie's old band, Del Amitri, once named an album Twisted. But for my money, his music didn't get truly twisted until he went solo.

Fans of Del Amitri know Currie's way with a melody, but it wasn't until What is Love For, his incredibly depressing solo debut, that the man's true talent for deliciously dark lyrics came out. I've rarely heard anything as bleak as the last few tracks on that album, on which Currie showed an equal penchant for hating himself ("Still in Love") and everything else ("No, Surrender").

The Great War isn't quite on the same level, musically or lyrically, but it's still a tough, black-hearted affair masquerading as a light pop album. The melodies are slight, but the words cut deep - Currie finds new ways to lash out on "As Long as You Don't Come Back" and "Anywhere I'm Away From You," a tendency which reaches its apex on the rumbling "Everyone I Love." But he saves his sharpest barbs, as on "Ready to Be," for himself.

The best thing here is the eight-minute "The Fight to Be Human," dark and hopeless even by Currie standards. Here, take a gander: "I used to believe in the goodness of man, but not anymore since I became one of them, I hoodwinked my woman and bought her a ring, like the fight to be human, it don't mean anything..." The repetitve music builds and builds, Currie digging in deeper and deeper as it goes.

If you're not paying attention to it, though, The Great War might even strike you as happy and bright. Pairing such jaunty music with lyrics this despairing may seem to some like a cruel joke. To me, it makes this an essential listen.

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