The Waterboys - Universal Hall
I filled the gap with listening to the Waterboys as they could have been. I finally came back to the Waterboys by buying this album after a number of recommendations from people who suggested that Mike Scott may be getting back to his best. There was a sense that the man had returned from an extended stay in a rather barren area of his own mind, and was getting back to the force and spirituality of his best. This album, it was alleged, was closer than anything else to his earlier greatest work.
Sadly, this was not the case. The principal element which is lacking from this, as with many of his other later albums, is the Big Music. This was Scott's initial musical concept which catapulted the man to the ranks of musical genii and dominated his earlier work. Although the enforced folksyness of Fisherman's Blues has gone, it still lacks that essential ingredient which made the first three Waterboys albums such remarkable musical collections. As such, the sound just seems empty.
Quite apart from the lack of a power behind the music, I have to admit I find the songs to be a little shallow as well. Scott's religious inclinations are well-known and have the power to enhance the music when he uses the spiritual side of his beliefs - indeed This Is the Sea was all about how man had the potential to be so much more if only he believed in himself. Yet here, Scott lets the religious take over. "The Christ in You" is the most obvious example of this and is probably the weakest song on the album. When he tries to move in the spiritual, such as with "EBOL" (essential being of love, in case you haven't figured it out) the result rather trite. When Scott finally does put down a song which has the capacity to be delivered in the style of the Big Music, such as "Peace of Iona", he fails to do it. Instead he resorts to a whispering delivery of vocal style which is about as far from that as he can possibly get.
I still have not managed to figure out what it was that made Scott veer away from his path in the mid-eighties. At first I ascribed it to some sort of breakdown. He may have come back from that, and seems to be making albums which have a more personal appeal to himself as an individual, but Mike Scott can do much much better than this. He needs to get off his high horse and listen to his first three albums. When he has done that, maybe he can give some thought to the difference between those and this and start to put things right.
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