DREARY
Whatever You Say,Say Nothing
Q Magazine March 1993

While making a career out of impersonating a steam train is not strictly a dignified way to make a living, Deacon Blue's Lorraine McIntosh "whoo whoos" like nobody else. That she now concentrates on singing properly or floating away in the foreground like Julee Cruise is at once a shame and an indication of the confidence her husband's band display on this, their fourth album proper, the stage at which America really ought to be calling a little louder than it is right now.

The first single, Your Town, suggested all sorts of strange and exciting things had been happening in the Deacon Blue camp. Produced by rave merchants Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne - best known for Happy Mondays' brief run of hits - Your Town felt like Two Tribes revisited and Ricky Ross's voice was pushed so far into the background as to make the identity of its creators virtually impossible to detect. It sounded great in clubs and the prospect seemed to be that Deacon Blue had done a Primal Scream and turned themselves, zelig-like, from a rather lumpy rock band into dance demons

. Alas, that song aside, little has changed. Oakenfold and Osborne produce the remaining nine tracks but you'd never guess. The true story of whether the two producers were lured info this under false pretences, whether they actually wanted to make a straightforward Deacon Blue album or whether outside pressures diluted a once-brave project, probably won't be told. All the same, the dance duo's actual recruitment and Your Town suggests that things weren't meant to turn out this way. Frankly, it's a cock-up. Whoever's to blame overall, the producers certainly botch the album's finest moment by fading Fall So Freely Down just as Ross is half-whooping, half-singing; McIntosh is trilling alongside him like Enya after a caffeine-only diet and some strings burst in like ramraiders going at a Newcastle hi-fi store.

Similarly, Will We Be Lovers is curtailed at the very point it seems to break info a proper chorus after beating round a distinctly unmelodious bush for four minutes. Elsewhere - and on more than one song - Simple Minds'Alive & Kicking seems just around the next verse. There are good things here, albeit not many. Last Night I Dreamed Of Henry Thomas (presumably dedicated to the old bluesman whose HoneyJust Allow Me One More Chance was covered on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) has a pretty tune; there's some neat, choppy guitar spliced expertly into Peace And Jobs And Freedom; and McIntosh is consistently excellent, injecting some colour info a decidedly dreary canvas.

Ricky Ross can write strong songs. When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring), Twist & Shout and Dignity would grace any back catalogue but, collaborator-free (except for Osborne's co- credit on Will We Be Lovers), he seems to have run smack bang into an artistic cul-de-sac. This album just isn't happening.* * join Aizlewood