Tip o’ the hat to Mr B for turning me on to this group; you know when you’ve hit the right songs at the right time because you have to listen to them over and over. It’s been a week and I am still listening to this disc (well, is it a disk if only virtual?) a lot. I suppose in the wake of all the fun I had in Poland and having nothing but tons of work ahead of me — and missing a special little girl’s birthday this week — a mood of melancholy might be expected. And it’s the perfect frame of mind for this lush set of songs by Paul Quinn and the Independent Group.
The title song is shot through with such longing. From the first elegiac strings and soft backing vocals the melody swirls around to serve up Quinn’s velvety tones like a bittersweet dessert. He’s one of those singers who perfectly evokes heartbreak in his aching delivery. The complex weave of aural textures rewards close listening, but its really the vocals that enchant — no less because Scottish opera singer Jane-Marie O’Brien adds her amazing voice to the song, soaring over the lyrics like a promise of hope.
The rest of the songs match that beauty. “You Have Been Seen” has lyrics that continue “in a country where you should not have been” — it seems like a great theme song for Chastity Flame. The rueful lyrics of “Lover, That’s You All Over” offer a kind of resignation the jangly guitars belie — a kind of acceptance that’s the way things will remain, dwindling down to the piano notes at the end. “Mooreefoc” has a loopy sense of fun that entirely suits its meaning.
The whimsical interlude doesn’t really prepare you for the painful simmering heartbreak of “A Passing Thought” about a heart that’s heard “too many lies” because after all “one more tear won’t make no difference to the rain”. Quinn’s voice swings between a growl and a soaring glide with such ease and the arrangements follow his lead, guitars crunching in to join the synth swell and then dropping back out to let the piano hit notes like rain drops. “Misty Blue” is just gorgeous. I’m running out of superlatives. I just love this. If you never listened to a word of the lyrics you’d still be enchanted; yet there’s perfectly little sad stories like “you want to see her” repeated then the knife twists with “but you haven’t even got the right/ to ask her where she was last night”.
“Stupid Thing” is so good: “This is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard” indeed. It captures perfectly that sense of self-loathing from words that can’t be taken back, like John Hiatt’s “Tip of My Tongue” does.
You may have to be in the mood for it. If you’re not a fan of the New Romantic vein of songs or passionate torch singers you may find it overwrought at times. I defy you to listen to “At the End of the Night” and remain unmoved.
Delighted to find they’re local to Dundee and played there this summer, so I hope to be able to catch them live. Here’s a fan site devoted to Quinn. Here’s him and Edwyn Collins doing the Velvet’s “Pale Blue Eyes” which I love so much.
Click the picture to buy yourself a copy; drop by Todd’s to get a bunch of recommendations of overlooked audio and video.