Reviewed by Matthew Cordle
Deacon Blue need no introduction, having been one of Scotland's most successful bands since the launch of their debut, 'Raintown', in 1987. In the years since then the members of the band have travelled various roads, reuniting after a 10-year break for 2012's release, 'The Hipsters', and are here back together again for another full studio album. Discussing the premise of the album in a 2014 interview, Ricky Ross said, "I've been thinking a lot about nature - its pervasiveness, relentlessness and energy. My dad always used to say, 'Aye, Spring again', and I think in some ways that idea helped shape the album." Regarding the title of the album Ricky stated, "I remember being five and moving out to a housing estate in [Dundee's] West Ferry. We went to see it - my mum and dad said, 'This is going to be your new house' - but it was still a building site, so there was a farm here, and fields there, and there was a sense of stamping your authority over nature, but also of being aware that if you left it alone, nature would claw back. Nature always does. There was a real excitement about that. I suppose it's the excitement of possibility." As with much of their best material, the vocal blend of husband and wife Ricky and Lorraine is perfectly balanced, whether sharing lead vocals or harmonies, and they soar over the rock-solid playing of the band. The sound is fresh, joyful and full of energy and, whilst reminiscent of past material, is by no means more of the same. On first listen there's no immediate classic, yet there's a maturity to the sound that goes beyond "radio-friendly" and repeated listening fleshes out the depth in the songs. "Bethlehem Begins" kicks off the CD with high energy, pounding drums reminiscent of the movie Jumanji. The song was influenced by W B Yeats' poem, The Second Coming. Ricky said, "It's an idea from his writing about two sides of history coming together, the idea that you have to go back, rather than forward, to find the meaning." Deacon Blue's songs have never been disposable, and the writing here is no exception. Appreciation of the natural world dominates: "For John Muir" is a celebration of the Scottish-American naturalist who was driven by his Christian faith to preserve the wilderness of nature, and "An Ocean" portrays a desire for a deeper, more infinite experience of love filling our horizon like the beautiful, overwhelming ocean. "Wild" has a carefree feel to it and is a reminder that simplicity is often best, out in the wild, inspired by Gerald Manley Hopkins' words, "What would the world be once bereft of wet and wildness?"
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