The Waterboys - Out of All This Blue

The Waterboys Out of All This Blue cover
The Waterboys
Out of All This Blue
Mike Scott and whoever makes up The Waterboys these days return with a new album, a couple of years after “Modern Blues”… an album that took things as far back as to not be considered self-plagiarism, inspired in the way that it chose to fuse all the band’s previous facets into a more cohesive aural alloy. Now, one might be mistaken about this new album, by its title and expecting something bluesy (even in the deluxe edition a third disc offers many alternative mixes and orchestrations, there’s vaguely much that would sound like that – blues it is), but to my ears it follows an experimental pop/rock, post millennial style that the band has explored in the past, but didn’t quite allow to take over an album to such an extend before.
Disc 1:
“Do We Choose Who We Love” feels both contemporary with its beats and all, but also so recognizably “Waterboys”, because of a lot small nuances, past Scott’s voice, which is a dead giveaway.
“If I was Your Boyfriend” is driven by a lazy, but funky bass line and feels smooth and pretty good fun.
“Santa Fe” has a bit of an Americana vibe, while it still is WB’s at its core and could have to do something with Mike Scott touring America with mostly a “session” band of Water-fellas, it must have rubbed a bit off on him, subconsciously.
“If the Answer is Yeah” is a beautiful funky number that sounds as modern and acidic as The Waterboys could, without losing their identity. I mean since they have existed since the 80s, to say it sounds a lot like something that a Britpop band could have done, is a little dumb, but it has “single” material written all over it and for good reason too.
“Love Walks In” is probably the first tune that feels a little bluesier, but since it lyrically relates to a man feeling exhilaration as his lover walks into the room and expresses it, the hue of the blue music is lightened several shades.
“New York I Love You”… last time that Scott spent a lot of time in the States – he took a sharp turn from folk to rock n roll, but this time it seems some funkier shit has come into the mix. There’s a simple rough riff in the heart of all things here, but it’s so heavy masqueraded by beats and funked up by the bass that it turns into something quite different and relatively adventurous. I seem to like, pretty much whatever that Scott seems to come up with, because he always seem to be able to take a simple hummable melody and sometimes surprise the f@ck out you with what he comes up with, to dress it up.
“The Connemara Fox” is heavier, still funky but also fuzzy and rocky with some weird low mixed winds. Certainly something you could tap your feet to, but without the staying power of other material.
“The Girl in the Window Chair” is a very stripped down, acoustic number (with strings coming in at some point) sounding like a bit like Dylan crossed with Kurt Weil. Quite the curveball tune that in all honesty, doesn’t quite feel entirely at home among the rest of the material, but stands up on itself.
“Morning Came too Soon” is driven by a minimalist repetitive motive, evocative and almost hypnotic, only driven forward by Scott’s not all that monotonous poetry.
“Hiphopstrumental 4 (Scatman)”: John the “Scatman” is dead, so this is I guess not a tribute or a guest performance, but more or less MS scatting softly over some ambiance and a drum machine. Why he deemed it release worthy – is a little beyond me, but hey… to each his own.
Disc 2:
“The Hammerhead Bar” starts with Scott speaking in a thick Scottish accent, before he and the band break into something like Dire Straits with violins and whatnot; it’s obviously still a very WB sort of bluesy rock, but it borrows a bit from here and there and tips it’s “imported” cowboy hat to many influences. Damn…
“Mister Charisma” has an almost jazzy (in hell) acidity that makes it sound almost gospel-like.
“Nashville, Tennessee” seems to have crowd noises mixed in and a vibe that could mean it was recorded “live”; it’s got that Cash like air about it, ye know the country fare, but with WB’s own slant on it.
“Man, What a Woman” is bluesy, hypnotic, post and almost too monotonous, but manages to redeem itself by an ecstatic fiddle solo.
“Girl in a Kayak” has some clarinet like winds in an inventive 1 minute improvisations that seem to recall same parts Greek Folk and Peruvian stuff.
“Monument” is a mix of vintage WB with a backbeat and samples, adlibs and spoken parts with a very egotistic, self-centered worldview, making man in his own image, elevating him to divine status. It could conceivably be regarded as a sarcastic take on a certain someone, that’s come into a position of high power, especially as “Kinky’s History Lesson” is just that. A bit of a lesson to the eponymous singer/novelist/satirist/politician, who made the mistake of calling Brits cowards during the Second World War…
“Skyclad Lady” is a minute long vocal improvisation that sounds like a bizarre mingling of Indian chanting and a couple of notes from the Anacreontic song (the British music) that became actually the national anthem of the US.
Even weirder, yet, is “Rokudenashiko” – a song after the pseudonym of Scott’s current wife, Igarashi Megumi, a rather controversial Japanese activist/artist that seems to have a bit of a fixation with using female genitalia in her artworks in an effort to demystify them to the Japanese public. It’s a simple, if not a little monotonous ballad that I’m sure that it’s much closer to its creators than it could ever be to anyone else’s… but one can feel the “soul” in Scott’s heartfelt vocalizing in the middle of the song and other places too.
“Didn’t We Walk on Water” greets us with a beatboxing Scott and a bit of a disco-groove… gee, did he “really” mix it up on this one to the point, when you dunno what to expect from one song to the other”; it’s disco hook makes it catchy as hell, if not a little “predictable”.
“The Elegant Companion” is a lot more experimental, mostly built around a constant sampled beat and sampled keys. Again, Scott speaks of his love, but this time it’s a mysterious almost epic vibe. Sounds a little like a soundtrack, both dark and mysterious, almost noir, when it’s meant to be a love song… which it is, but not “any” love song. The guitar solo is really poignant too.
“Yamaben” is also “quite-produced” with some (sampled?) horns. And it’s probably also inspired by the recent missus – Scott’s “manga” creations? It’s actually quite happy and catchy, so I guess, quite likely to become a hit; pardon the pun I am about to make, and you might have seen coming from a mile away, ahem “Big in Japan”… oh yes, there, I did it.
Last but not least is, “Payo, Payo Chin” (informal way to say Good Day/Morning, affectionately) yet another love song, about waking up next to your (Japanese) g/f, wife etc.! It’s actually a nice poppy, song that feels a little like Roxette, if MS was singing in them; I know it sounds “odd”, but try to imagine. It’s not as horrific as it sounds, it actually “works” pretty well.
Disc 3:
The third CD contains a whole load of remixed, re-imagined & alternative takes on songs, live songs and a couple of outtakes. Some works better than others, I guess, but it’s “more” rather than “less” so I’m not complaining.
As a whole “Out of All This Blue” probably refers to a change in the mood from “blue” to a happier place and doesn’t have to do with the musical genre that much (if at all). Because of its length and the various stylistic twists and turns in the material, it probably is the most disjointed Waterboys/Mike Scott album, as it just doesn’t stick to one specific style or genre, but almost jumps from one to another, not even transcending… which makes it a challenging listen. Certain songs stand out, none are “bad”, but some just feel like they don’t belong in the same album even within the two distinct “CDs”.
While you cannot blame anybody else than Scott for this “beautiful mess”, since he’s the captain cook, but it seems that he’s so overwhelmed that this album feels more like a “private diary” set to rather spontaneous, but somewhat patchy musical ideas, rather than a thought out composed record. It’s still gonna satisfy the long standing fans, but if some would find it a little tiresome, I would get them too… since that’s just the way I feel. Just too many things to take in and just like love, this album doesn’t come with a manual…