Monday, 29 October 2018

Deacon Blue - A New House (2014)


  

Released September 2014

Unfortunately, this album suffers from the same poor production as its predecessor, "The Hipsters", from 2012. Quite what possessed either Deacon Blue or their producers to think that this showed their wonderful music in the best light is beyond me.

The opener, "Bethlehem Begins" has an infectious, rumbling drum intro and a great bass line too, but when it kicks in to its chorus, the usually strident vocals of Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh are practically submerged by the muffled, tinny backing. Such a shame because it is a really good song. The funky, guitar-driven rock of "For John Muir" is a bit of an improvement, particularly in the verses. Like the previous track, though, it when the full-on chorus arrives that the problems occur. The title track is an excellent, atmosphere, very typically Deacon Blue song, suffering from the same chorus section faults, but a captivating build up that sounds vaguely like Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill". As on the previous album, I feel that Deacon Blue's main asset, the melodious musicality expressed in the trademark vocals of their two vocalists is being completely buried under this crashing, unsubtle production. At the risk of repeating myself, "An Ocean" is exactly the same, a good sound on the build up that completely goes astray as the chorus launches. It is a pity because these are good songs. Given a production such as on their first four albums they would all sound so much better.

"The Living" is an anthemic typical Deacon Blue, which suffers less than the others so far and has a sumptuous bass line and some excellent vocals actually a bit higher in the mix for once and a nice guitar drum riff driving it along. "I Wish I Was A Girl Like You" gets is mostly right, with a deep bass and drum sound and discernible vocals. It has a catchy rhythm and a great atmosphere to it. Proper Deacon Blue. Look, I am writing this as someone who has everything they have ever released and love the band dearly. My criticisms are ones that can be levelled at quite a lot of post 2000 album productions. Bruce Springsteen ("Magic"), Elvis Costello ("When I Was Cruel") and Paul McCartney ("Memory Almost Full") have all suffered from poorly produced albums in that period. I just want one of my favourite bands' work to be give the best quality sound, and on these albums they didn't get it.

"Win" is a lovely, appealing and melodic number with a nice bassy warmth to it. "Wild" is a quirky number with some staccato guitar and a catchy refrain. "March" has a solid, muscular riff throughout and some swirling new wave-style organ, also a rumbling bass sound and some excellent vocals. This is slightly more like it. "Our New Land" is a plaintive, acoustically-backed song, although Ross's voice sounds a bit strained on it, maybe he is just getting older. "I Remember Every Single Kiss" has a mysteriously attractive rumbling bass and piano intro and is a beguiling song that brings to mind the "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing" album. In fact, in many ways, this whole album has shades of that one. They are both not instantly gripping albums, that take time and repeated listens to get into. The sound problem will always remain, however, although the second half of the album is an improvement on the first, for some probably totally coincidental reason. Funnily enough, when played live, such as on "Barrowlands 2016" the tracks from these albums sound so much better.

C+

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