Highlights: Dilemma, Down The Line, Forsooth, In The Now, Love’s Been Good To Me
I guess it would be hard not to start this review by saying that Understated is the perfect title for a late-period Edwyn Collins album. The word may have very little to do with Edwyn’s music (it really is quite colourful and upbeat), but in terms of the actual career of the ‘godfather of indie’ (ridiculous notion, but there you go), it’s just about perfect. The fact that he did have a major hit single back in 1994 (“A Girl Like You”, obviously) only underlines the very low-key nature of this release.
However, who fucking cares? 2010’s Losing Sleep was excellent, but arguably Understated is even better. A masterful collection of sharp, articulate, expertly produced songs that serve as further proof that Edwyn Collins is one of Britain’s greatest living songwriters. He was good and foppish when he was Orange Juice, and he is equally good (though certainly a lot less foppish) now that he keeps his winning streak going.
“Dilemma” is a punchy, pulsating opener that effectively tells the listener not to lower his expectations. What follows is consistently brilliant songwriting, soulful, groovy and preserving that post-punk edge that set him off back in early 80’s (actually, the album does sound like You Can't Hide Your Love Forever written by a mature Edwyn Collins). My favourite stretch of songs comes on the second side: the country-ish “Down The Line” is one to sing along to; the Velvetsy “Forsooth” (the irresistible “Sunday Morning” vibe, but slightly less mellow); the powerful, addictive rocker “In The Now”. The ballad “Love’s Been Good To Me” (cover of Rod McKuen’s unfading classic) brings the whole thing to a fitting, gorgeous end.
Everyone who’s been with Edwyn all these years, will love the hell out of this album. I know I did. Fantastic, tasteful production and confident songwriting, what else do you need? Too early to say, of course, but Understated is a sure contender for 2013’s top 10. Ah hell, I’m giving it a nine. It is just too good.