Music Review – DEL AMITRI: FATAL MISTAKES (2021)

Review: Del Amitri Avoided Making 'Fatal Mistakes' On New Album - American SongwriterDEL AMITRI
FATAL MISTAKES (CD, Cooking Vinyl, 28 May 2021, 45:52) – score 76%

Musicians: Andy Alston – keyboards; Justin Currie – vocals, bass; Kris Dollimore – guitar; Iain Harvie – guitar, backing vocals; Ash Soan – drums.
Producer: Dan Austin; Mixed by Dan Austin; Mastered by Paul McGeehan; Recorded at Vada studio, March 2020.

Fatal Mistakes is the Scottish band’s seventh studio album and their first since 2002’s experimental Can You Do Me Good? It is a distinct return to the band’s roots and all the better for it. Currie’s gift for marrying wistful melodies with his characteristically cynical lyrics is in evidence right from the chirpy album opener “You Can’t Go Back” and most evident on the infectiously catchy “It’s Feelings”. Elsewhere, “Musicians and Beer” weaves around its tribal rhythm and crashing electric guitar chords; “Close Your Eyes and Think of England” lyrically deals with Brexit; “Losing the Will to Die” and “I’m So Scared of Dying” demonstrate Currie’s dark humour as he comes to terms with his own mortality; “Otherwise” is a moody and reflective ballad with warm instrumentation; and “Nation of Caners”, by far the longest song, closes the album with its insistent bouncing rhythm building in intensity along with Currie’s angry lyrics. Instrumentally the songs are largely based around Harvie and Dollimore’s neat and unobtrusive guitar work and could have fitted on any of the band’s heyday albums. The collection is remarkably concise, with all but two songs clocking in under four minutes. This does, however, give the feeling on some songs that they have ended abruptly. The production has a low-fi quality that gives the songs an organic and intimate feel. On the whole a welcome return from a band playing to its strengths.

TRACK SCORES:
1. You Can’t Go Back (Currie) (2:53) ****
2. All Hail Blind Love (Currie/Harvey) (4:04) ***
3. Musicians and Beer (Currie) (2:46) ****
4. Close Your Eyes and Think of England (Currie) (3:30) ****
5. Losing the Will to Die (Currie) (2:34) ***
6. Otherwise (Currie) (3:01) ****
7. It’s Feelings (Currie/Harvey) (2:42) *****
8. I’m so Scared of Dying (Currie) (4:27) ****
9. Mockingbird, Copy Me Now (Currie/Dollimore) (2:23) ****
10. Missing Person (Currie) (3:19) ***
11. Second Staircase (Currie) (3:00) ***
12. Lonely (Currie/Harvey) (3:28) ****
13. Nation of Caners (Currie) (7:39) ****

THE MUSIC PRESS:
Mojo (Jim Farber): “The music swings again, even if Currie’s damning viewpoint hasn’t lightened.” (****)
Classic Rock Magazine: “While long-term fans might initially be disappointed by the marked absence of the bar-room swagger of yore, repeated listens bear fruit.” (****)
Telegraph (Neil McCormick): “Del Amitri’s bracing feel-bad pop-rock won’t be for everyone, but for those of us who appreciate sweet melodies set off with sour sentiments, it is perversely good to have the old curmudgeons back.” (****)
American Songwriter (Lee Zimmerman): “Fatal Mistakes reflects a duelling perspective, one that recognizes the difficulty of maintaining a certain standard but that is determined to reach new goals. The fact that Del Amitri succeed as well as they do is a testament to both their confidence and their talent.” (***½)

Music Review – MARILLION: FUGAZI (1984)

Fugazi [VINYL]: Amazon.co.uk: MusicFUGAZI (LP, EMI, 12 March 1984, 45:56) – score 61%

Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Additional musicians: Linda Pyke – backing vocal (on “Incubus”); Chris Karen – additional percussion
Producer: Nick TauberEngineer/Mixing Engineer: Simon Hanhart; Recorded at various studios, November 1983 – February 1984; UK Album Chart: 5; BPI Cert: Gold (100,000+).

The inconsistent nature of Marillion’s second album was perhaps inevitable given the chaotic scheduling of the recordings and the revolving drum stool during the album’s conception. The band pushed for a more personal and distinctive sound without fully achieving their goal – mixing hard rock with progressive and pop overtones in a seeming effort to please all. Drummer, Ian Mosley proves to be a great addition to the band and over the years would form an excellent partnership with bassist Trewavas that makes some of their efforts here feel a little stiff rhythmically – likely due to both playing it a little safe. Fish’s lyrics tend toward the wordy and metaphorical showing a frustrated novelist. Rothery shows glimpses of the wonderful guitarist he was to become.

Side 1:
1. Assassing (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (7:03) ****
Indian and African influences in the opening give way to more traditional driving rock tropes with jazz tinges, muscular bass and big musical statements, notably from Kelly’s keyboards and Rothery’s guitar synth. Inspired by their pagan surrounds in Wales during the writing. Released as a single on 30 April 1984 peaking at #22 in the UK singles chart.
2. Punch & Judy (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mover) (3:22) ***
A pacey keyboard riff and stuttering rhythm underline the lyrical use of the children’s violent puppetry as an allegory for the breakup of a marriage. Lacks substance but doesn’t outstay its welcome. Released as a single on 30 April 1984 peaking at #29 in the UK singles chart.
3. Jigsaw (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (6:51) ***
The opening musical box sound introduces the band’s first power ballad with a big chorus. It is another lyrical allegory from Fish in that relationships can be like jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces and frustration. The song contains an elegant, gliding Rothery guitar solo, but rhythmically is a little static.
4. Emerald Lies (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:12) **
A song about jealousy and infidelity that begins like a hard rocker, before moving into a more delicate acoustic section. The song then runs through various musical sections alternating the heavy and the quiet. Overall though the song lacks its own distinctive character.
Side 2:
5. She Chameleon (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (6:55) **
An atmospheric and hypnotic repeated organ phrase from Kelly runs intermittently through this tale of metaphoric chameleons. A mid-song keyboard solo serves little purpose as the song fails to gain momentum with its multi-sectioned approach, although once again Rothery shows how he was growing as a distinctive and sensitive guitarist with a short fluent solo.
6. Incubus (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (8:32) ***
Fish stays on the subject of doomed relationships as the band play a menacing and atmospheric backing. The song is given room to stretch and breathe and weaves its way through short musical sections behind Fish’s wordy lyrics. Another fluent Rothery solo is again the highlight, and it leads into the kind of dramatic end section that would become a band trademark.
7. Fugazi (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas) (8:03) ****
A cynical album closer based on the slang phrase used by US soldiers in Vietnam begins with a neat piano section from Kelly as Fish’s lyrical similes dig into our psyche. Echoes of Pink Floyd emerge as the song slowly builds momentum through its sonically creative mid-section, before playing out in anthemic style. The song showcased the band’s strengths and pointed the way forward.

Single B-sides
1. Cinderella Search (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:32) **
Another rhythmically stiff and undistinguished song, that tells of seeking out the opposite sex in nightclubs and bars. The music and lyrics fail to tie together and the song meanders through pieced together segments before gathering some momentum in its closing section. B-side to “Assassing” released as a single on 30 April 1984.

Notes:
– All individual tracks scored * to *****
– Album scored as a % based on individual track scores weighted by track length.