And You Thought They Were Dead
The Times 4th May

Scottish sextet Deacon Blue named themselves after a Steely Dan song, which always suggested a certain hubris on their part; a level of aspiration laughably out of step with their blue-collar, E Street Band-go Glasgow shtick. Ricky Ross hollered. Lorraine McIntosh shrieked. The rest of us wondered what Chocolate Girl was all about.

The big shock, then, is how impressive much of Homesick is, Deacon Blue may look the same, but their sound has undergone a massive overhaul. Gone are the faux-soul blunderings. Instead, Rae is galvanised by haunting stabs of Lalo Schifrin-style treated harpsichord; Silverlake, a gentle satire on Iron John notions of masculinity, attains Donald Fagen-esque lyrical heights. ("Said all the things that needed to be said ? We named and shamed / and stick it on the web"); and This Train Will Take You Anywhere thrillingly extends an uncompromising metaphor over four minutes of shuffling drums and Bo Diddley guitar.

There's a breadth here that recalls the work of Paddy McAloon, whose Prefab Sprout shared Deacon Blue's belief in the power of American soul music to transform Britain's blighted post-industrial landscape. It makes you wonder if more bands shouldn't take seven-year sabbaticals. Then again, who'd want another Happy Mondays album?