Older And Wiser
Sounds 23rd May 1987
Deacon Blue 'Raintown'

WHAT SOUNDED so rare and special when Prefab Sprout and Scritti Politti alone did it is now queuing up for turntable space chez moi. I refer, of course, to the highly wrought songs of the new breed of tunesmiths hammering away at their diminished seventh chords and voice lessons. Not that I'm complaining. Danny Wilson, Goodbye Mr MacKenzie and The Bathers have already added a clutch of demanding - and rewardwg - tunes to the sum of human happiness. Also from Scotland (Glasgow via Dundee), Deacon Blue's mainman Ricky Ross is 29 and acting his age.

He does not storm the citadels of rock 'n' roll, but in this, the band's first album, he evokes moods and portrays viewpoints which ring true to the life of someone who's lived, observed and pondered a little. Strong but oh-so-sensitive, Ricky's voice is thrillingly counterpointed by that of Lorraine Mclntosh in small dramas of effusive but deft tunefulness. In 'Dignity', for instance, Ricky's "sippin' down saki and reading up Keynes" to a melody gloriously reminiscent of Springsteen's early records. In short, Deacon Blue are unlikely to appeal to fans of the Stupids. Indeed, these introspective sepia-tints of romance and home - bastions of security for the not-quite-so-young - are symptomatic of how record companies are increasingly pitching towards the over-25s (count me in).

But what reassures such punters mildly bugs me. Do the guitars have to roar with that manicured jet-engine smoothness? Must Ricky lay on the husky angst quite so thick? Can songs about Glasgow's bad weather and worse employment prospects really move? For thinking person's pop, this is highly-spiced, as if the over-teens' palate has been desensitised by too much sophisticated mood music already. Even so, this multi-layered stuff is designed to last - even to grow on you - and I've only lived with it for an hour or two. Right now I'll say it tries too hard, but ask me again at Christmas.
Mat Snow