The Waterboys - Where the Action Is

The Waterboys Where the Action Is
The Waterboys
Where the Action Is
Cooking Vinyl Limited
I was reading a few reviews about this album, and one in particular stuck out. One from a newspaper, you know the 4-5 line ones, where you wonder if the reviewer even bothered listening to the album or just “googled” some and came up with some quote… the album was dismissed as sounding dated… in that case the band and it’s sizable audience must have been happily living out of the hip bubble for ages, but isn’t that what timelessness is?
All things considered, since Mike Scott resurrected the band moniker around the turn of the millennium – he’s changed direction and band members rather often, but his last few albums with The Waterboys have been more or less collecting and distilling the essence from the vast variety of styles that the band has performed in times past but also recent.
“Where the Action Is” is more business like usual, than it’s somewhat mixed up predecessor. The title track itself, which opens the album, is the sort of brassy suave world rocker, with eclectic soulful hints and a big sound that the band has popularized almost singlehandedly. Mixing up great songwriting in the vein of early Bob Dylan with U2, before they were a commodity and a whole lot of other British acts and a whole lot of their own…. the tune really shines.
“London Mick” is a little more idiosyncratic, as the character it describes, obviously Clash’s Mick Jones. But its charm makes it easy to follow.
“Out of All This Blue” by virtue of its title, should have been on the previous album, giving me The Doors flashbacks… were “Waiting for the Sun” didn’t end on the eponymous album but on the next; it sounds like a more subdued “We are Jonah”, the same sweet pop blues shuffle…
“Right Side of Heartbreak (Wrong Side of Love)” is an interesting repetitive, soul pop piece very introspective and fragile, almost like a bleeding heart that’s freshly healed, but could just as well start aching at any given moment.
“In My Time on Earth” the song that sounds the most “dated” soundwise, we get a big sounding epic blues pop paean that even denies basking in its own “could have been” glory; in it’s almost gospel chorus, a far greater song is teased, but it never materializes with Scott almost breaking down to a semi spoken portion with guitars backing… it almost feels like a hymn for the disenchanted…
“Ladbroke Grove Symphony” is a simple story driven jam, with even some welcome fiddling about in the end, about Mike’s bohemian days and times at the West London Street.
“Take Me There, I Will Follow You” feels like someone experimenting with proto hip-hop and funk, with a bit of a Scott-ish zaniness, which makes it almost sound like Frank Zappas 115th nightmare…
“And There’s Love” is a minimalist, trip hop almost, acoustically driven heart wrenchingly beautiful song, about the awesomeness and hurt, which can coexist when there’s love… lovely.
“Then She Made the Lasses O” is distinctly Scottish in concept, but instrumented in quite a modern way, only for a fiddle solo to int-erupt and lead out of the song complete with vinyl scratch noises.
“Piper at the Gates of Dawn” is a nine minute pagan parable largely inspired by the eponymous chapter from Kenneth Grahame’s classic “ Wind in the Willows”.
The deluxe edition of the album, as usual, with the past few releases, features wild remixes of the songs of the album that sometimes have a resemblance to their “original” counterparts and quite often, almost fuck all to do with them… which makes for an interesting alternative “take”, which however requires a bit of an open mind to appreciate fully... although some of the alternate arrangements are just beautiful on their own (ie the accordions and ethereal female vox on “Right Side...”).
It’s both surprising and also enviable, how Mike Scott continues to be so bohemian, so out there, so old, but oh so new, in a word pretty frigging timeless, just by following his muse and not the fads. So, we’ll join him, wherever the action is…