This is an album that might not bother the charts but is going to sell steadily for years to come from word of mouth as people tell each other how fantastic it is.
Nevin is the guy who sold four songs to a publishing company for £50 a pop; the fifth was turned down so he recorded it himself — you’ll perhaps have heard of his band, Fairground Attraction, and that song —Perfect.
He’s gone on to write for the likes of Morrissey but continued to release solo work. Out on his own label Raresong Recordings, this is his fourth album under his own name.
Given his track record, we expected this to be the usual output from a successful performer with (to use a line from the title track) his glory days behind him. But it’s not: it’s fresh and the music sparkles, with the sound somewhere between the classic melodic rock of Jackson Browne and the folksy blues of Bob Dylan. It also reminded us, in its originality, of pre-Lady in Red Chris de Burgh. There’s lots of brass and organ and even more soul. It’s lyrically interesting.
It opens misleadingly with what sounds like a harpsichord before a great opening line: “You needed someone to blame and I got the job” for the soulful country-tinged Love = Love = Love.
The title track follows, a slower, wistful song about a guy looking at beautiful guitars in a shop window, eventually buying one, having a hit and touring the world. Now older and with a family and bills he sees “kids carrying their cases / coming down Denmark Street / I know that look on their faces”.
One of the reasons the album is so good is in that line: this is not an album written by a cynically older man offering the wisdom of his hard-won experience to younger people, but one that’s optimistic and hopeful. The singer’s had his day but he’s happy for the young musicians about to set off on the same journey.
The Dylanesque 100 Years Of Heartache is equally optimistic: it’s a guy singing about turning the corner after the title’s long period of gloom, accompanied by some luscious organ.
Also good is the lively Let’s Make Hay and Just In Time (To Be Too Late) and its beautifully vicious lyrics. Perfect is on here, too, given a new arrangement to make it fresh, with the bass line taken by a trombone. About as good as pop gets.