Deacon Blue - The Hipsters
Cross Rhythms 3rd January 2013
Reviewed by Dougie Adam
25 years ago Deacon Blue released their debut LP 'Raintown' on CBS Records. At first the album and its first three singles all bombed commercially, but the Scottish band fronted by singer/songwriter Ricky Ross slowly built up a dedicated fanbase through constant touring and eventually a re-recorded version of "Dignity" gave them their first minor brush with the Top 40. 'Raintown' eventually spent almost a year and a half on the chart and sold over one million copies. Tracks such as "Loaded", "Chocolate Girl" and "Dignity" came to be regarded as classics.
During the band's first incarnation (1987-94) they enjoyed two number one albums and a number two single and sold six million albums and had 12 top 40 singles. In 1999 they reformed on a part time basis, mainly to play a handful of summer festivals and Christmas concerts each year and have recorded new tracks for compilation albums released in 1999 and 2006 and one full length studio album in 2001. The band's back story and 25th anniversary are both very much in the foreground on this their sixth studio album proper. "Here I Am In London Town" kicks the album off as "Born In A Storm" and "James Joyce Soles" did on their respective albums - piano and string-led arrangements as Ricky Ross casts his mind back to the 'Raintown' sessions in AIR Studios.
The album bursts into life with the infectious string-driven riff to the title track and the next six songs up until "That's What We Can Do" remind me of the opening side of the band's biggest selling album 'When The World Knows Your Name' which opened at a relentless breakneck speed: "Queen Of The New Year", "Wages Day", "Real Gone Kid", "Love And Regret", Circus Lights", "This Changing Light". wham! I have no doubt that if the recordings of "The Hipsters", "The Outsiders", "Turn" and the euphoric "Stars" had been released during the band's commercial peak (1989-91) they would all have been among the band's biggest hit singles.
The second half of the album sees the pace change and the subject matter also shifts from Ricky's open love letter to Deacon Blue and their fans in the opening songs to more personal concerns as the 11 tracks come to a close with "Is There No Way Back To You". Of Deacon Blue's poppiest albums aimed with radio airplay in mind 'The Hipsters' is the best of the bunch, more of a typical Deacon Blue sound than "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing", more of a cohesive band effort than "Homesick" and with better written songs and none of the fussy and overly slick laborious production which dogged the "When The World Knows Your Name" sessions.
'The Hipsters' sounds like Deacon Blue albums should with a great collection of pop songs, largely cut live in the studio showcasing the chemistry between the original band members Dougie Vipond (drums), Jim Prime (keyboards), augmented by new members Lewis Gordon (bass) and Gregor Philps (guitars) with the distinctive sound of Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh's vocals welded beautifully together centre stage and proud. Fans are advised to supplement the 11-track CD with two additional bonus recordings from the sessions.
"This Year's Drug Of Choice" is one of my favourites from the sessions but is available as an iTunes-only download, while "Nothing For Me Here" is available free from the official website and boasts the best one-liner from all the songs, as a prisoner gets ready to jump jail, "I'm moving jail, just haven't told them yet". My only complaint is that with a running time of 40 minutes for the 11 tracks on the physical CD the album is too short and leaves me wanting more. One of the band's best albums and many of the new songs went down a storm in the band's recent concerts and several songs like "Here I Am In London Town", "The Hipsters" and "Stars" are easily among the best recordings in the band's entire career.