Saturday, 27 October 2018
Deacon Blue - The Hipsters (2012)
Released September 2012
Firstly, I have to say that this album suffers a lot from poor sound/production. You have to turn it down quite a bit (and I like my music loud), but on the big chorus, orchestrated bits, it sounds very clashing and tinny. There is not, for me, enough clear electric guitar, enough subtle bass guitar, enough "proper drumming" and the vocals are distant and indistinct. The latter is such a shame as Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh's vocals are Deacon Blue, to a great extent.
Anyway, after an eleven year absence, Deacon Blue returned with this album and, production apart, it is a good one. "Here I Am In London Town" is a typical Deacon Blue low-key, plaintive album opener, with Ricky Ross's vocal over a solemn piano and subtle string backing. "The Hipsters" is a catchy, anthemic Deacon Blue song, with big orchestration and a catchy chorus. It is here that the production really blights the song. When the chorus kicks in, Ross's voice is too far down in the mix, almost drowned by the synthesised backing and what sound very programmed drums. It is a shame, because it is a good song. The production on their earlier albums was certainly not like this. I just wish the songs on here could be played and produced like the material on "Raintown" or "Fellow Hoodlums". Similarly, "Stars" is a captivating song that deserves better. On much of their previous material, Ross's voice soared above the music, joined by Lorraine McIntosh, on this album, it is difficult to pick out their vocals in the same way. Of course, you can hear them, but not in the same way, as far as I'm concerned anyway. The drums sound programmed and muffled too.
"Turn" opens with a vocal, so it is a lot clearer, despite the production's best efforts to bury the song, it mostly fails and the song remains a discernably good one. Briefly I could hear the bass guitar, which is unusual on this album as mostly all I can detect is the sonorous bass thump of the drum programming. "The Rest" has a good jangly guitar and drum intro and an endearing vocal that once again gets a considerable pounding from the backing. The track has that great Deacon Blue rousing, anthemic quality to it, however, which redeems it. "The Outsiders" also possesses the same good points, with a most captivating refrain.
No amount of bad production, however, can hide the glory when Lorraine launches "That's What We Can Do" and her and Ricky soar into one hell of a chorus, reminding of exactly what I have always loved about Deacon Blue. I have see them do this in concert a couple of times and they do it much better live, sound-wise, than it is on here. In fact, that goes for the whole album.
"She'll Understand" gets it almost right. It is a fetching, powerful duet between the two vocalists. "Laura From Memory" is a melodic but bassily thumping number with a most appealing vocal refrain. Ross still has just such a knack of nailing down a hook for a song. "It Will End In Tears" has a killer of a keyboard intro, a lovely melody and a detectable bass rhythm. I love this song. Nice organ break in it too. When Lorraine's vocals come in at the end it is thoroughly uplifting.
"Is There No Way Back To You" ends the album in a sort of dignified Elvis Costello ballad way. The piano bit in the middle is evocative and subtly majestic. There are eleven excellent songs on this album, a vibrant, upbeat atmosphere. I just wish it could be re-recorded, with different production emphasis.
- October 27, 2018