Melody Maker 30th May 1987
'Work, work, work, rain rain, rain and home, home, home, again, again, again.'While Raintown is indeed not an example of 'the dreaded concept album', the nature of its prevailing wind can scarcely be denied.As the above lyric softly whispered over and over again as its' final track 'A Town To Be Blamed' fades into bitter sweet memory, the bow is skilfully tied on the thematic concerns of this, the debut LP from Glasgow's Deacon Blue.
While most Scottish pop is seemingly either caught in a Velvetesque haze of stoned guitar or trapped behind the pale face of a white funk front, Deacon Blue take two steps back and insert a missing factor into the trite and tested but fundementally wrong pop equation.They add a classic coupling of tradition and a liberal sprinkling of human integrity, a commodity often way down the list of pop's prerequisites but one that makes great bands something to cherish.
You can't love that thing people with nothing better to write about have termed 'the new pop'. You can't hold a Curiousity or Swing Out Sister LP to your heart and shout about it.You can with Deacon Blue, who those pundits would surely term the most muso of pop's new parade cos they know that pophas more value than it's adopted premise of elevating you from the drudgery of human existance, as in 'The Very Thing'. Or plunging you headlong and breathless into its very maelstrom as in the epic title track 'Raintown'. with piano chords that crash like falling china into the lives of the inhabitants singer songwriter Ricky Ross's small town world.Ross's characters are on the whole fair players who've been dealt a cruel hand, desperate to come in from the rain, re-shuffle the pack and start the game again.
His lyrical intrusions into their disaster-ridden lives don't just offer snapshot reminders but living and breathing inner city landscapes of the kind Bill Forsyth would be proud.Like a north-of-the-border Randy Newman. Ross chronicles working class concerns similar to, but with more conviction than, the cool detachment of old gits like Randy Newman.Viewed from the back of the dole queue they're considerably more compulsive , less full of designer angst, less high art and all ther more arterial for Lorraine McIntosh's searing backing vocals.
Its not all rain, rain, rain. Like every cloud 'Raintown' has its silver linings not least in 'Dignity' when Ricky sings 'I'm telling these stories in a far away scene, sipping down Raki and reading Maynard Keynes', a piano riff nicked from 'The Waterboys' 'Whole Of The Moon', you can almost feel the liquid burn your throat and taste the sweet thrill of freedom as it plays musical chairs up and down your spine.
How far they'll be able to stretch it only time will tell.Ross has been quoted as saying he'd like to narrow his songwriting further - to one room rather than one town - a closeted underview that will, in time surely breed contempt, and when success has allowed them a sunny retreat from raintown and they're chewing on those new two pound coins rather than our own neuroses we'll probably despise them for giving in.Right now though I love every rain-soaked minute.Mat Smith