The Scottish band returns with a quietly assured set of songs. They can sure write a chorus.
Time: 11 Tracks / 44 mins
I must confess to usually finding Deacon Blue’s massive appeal (seven million album sales, two top-ten albums, fourteen hit singles) a bit of a mystery. Even though their biggest singles, like “Real Gone Kid” and “Dignity,” are bouncy – especially live – and have some lyrical depth, they have never given me tingles of anticipation or excitement.
City of Love has shown me that patience makes a difference though. On first hearing, it again sounded pleasant, if short of real hooks, but playing it through several times in a row brought out the detail as if a light had been shone on it.
The opening title track does all that you might want it to: there are pulsing strings in there, almost choral backing vocals and a definite Coldplay feel, all the while having enough energy to get people leaping and singing when it gets performed live – and it is sure to be a live favourite.
The band has always been particularly big in their native Scotland and much of this is again set in places like Glasgow and Dundee. “I’ve always loved the idea of a set of love songs that are framed within the city,” says lead singer and writer Ricky Ross. Referring to hearing his mother singing hymns in the kitchen as he grew up, he added, “I wanted to celebrate the heart of a city which has been my home for many years with the possibility of love and kindness from those hymns, and the belief that the world can be a better place.”
Other songs (the tender “Weight of the World” and the hooky, country-flavoured “Walk in the Woods” and “Come on in”) also invite you to join in. “Hit Me Where it Hurts” rides on an insistent bass line and builds up to what sounds like a Future of Forestry vocal over The Edge playing guitar.
“In Our Room” is highly evocative of that early stage of a relationship, when you can’t afford much, but make the most of it, playing Van Morrison to raise your spirits. It is helped by some lyrically poetic touches: “We lit the candles up in our room, small gifts of light, to lift the gloom.”
One or two tracks (“Intervals”) are more lightweight, while “Wonderful” and “Take Me” start off innocuously, before building significantly. Closing track “On Love” is largely spoken, recounting memories, rounded up by a memorable chorus.
One of the strongest songs is Ross asserting that he’s “Keeping my Faith Alive,” even when he feels the ground shifting below his feet and hearing unhelpful media voices. It has a wide open chorus and big scratchy guitar over a pronounced drum and bass.
These are some nicely created songs, full of the classic Deacon Blue sound.