Two For The Show (and my mother wants to go)

ARTIST: Edwyn Collins

ALBUMS: “Gorgeous George” (1994)/”I’m Not Following You” (1997)

Edwyn Collins has been operating under the radar his whole career, except for one glorious pop moment:  A Girl Like You, from 1994’s Gorgeous George album, was a worldwide smash and catapulted the notoriously shy Collins into the stratosphere, making him a million plus buckaroo’s in the process. The proceeds from that single alone (it’s still played quite regularly) have allowed him the breathing room to experiment and to continue to put out underrated classic after underrated classic over the years.

In 2005, Collins was rushed to the hospital after suffering a severe cerebral hemorrhage and would eventually spend six months recovering from brain surgery. Recover he did, with the help from his famously stubborn, but loving and supportive wife, Grace Maxwell. Without her pushing him to recovery he may never have released another album, much less walked or talked again. Walk and talk (and sing!) he eventually did, and write and write and write, finally releasing a new album in 2010 entitled Losing Sleep. It would be a real dick move to trash an album by a guy recovering from brain surgery, but thankfully it truly is a great album. Maybe not up to the standards of his old band Orange Juice, and maybe not up to the standards set by the 2 albums we are going to be discussing, but still pretty special.

Gorgeous George is the one that contained A Girl Like You, but in no way does that song overshadow the rest of the album. His use of dry wit and melody continue from song to song here. Out Of This World and the Bacharach-like If You Could Love Me are easily the equal of …Girl, and the latter in my opinion even eclipses it. Lyrically, Edwyn is in fine form. The Campaign For Real Rock starts the album off on a bitter note, a caustic commentary on Britain’s massive music festivals:

The rotting carcase of July
And ugly sun hung out to dry
Your gorgeous hippy dreams are dying
Your frazzled brains are putrefying

Repackaged, sold and sanitized
The devil’s music exorcised
You live, you die, you lie, you lie, you die
Perpetuate the lie, perpetuate the lie,
Perpetuate the lie, just to perpetuate the lie

Yes, yes, yes, it’s the summer festival
The truly detestable summer festival
Yes, yes, yes, it’s the summer festival
The truly detestable summer festival

If any of you still have any doubts that Morrissey got a great deal of his lyrical shtick from Collins you are delusional. Musically speaking Gorgeous George is varied and creative but doesn’t stray too far from the white boy soul music of his past, but it updates the sound with some creative production tricks that polish the songs to a high gloss. And while Collins started life as an amateur, some would say naive, guitarist, here he really shows how far he’s grown. His playing is amazingly diverse on this disk, the best he has ever played, as a matter of fact. Overall I would recommend this album to anyone, without question.

Of course Collins was going to capitalize on the success of Gorgeous George and A Girl Like You for his next album, I’m Not Following You. Even the ‘hit’ single for this album, The Magic Piper (Of Love) sounds like a clone of A Girl Like You, in as much as it has a very ‘60’s retro feel about it. The beats on this album a little more mechanized, but the songwriting is still strong enough to make this a fine follow-up; it’s just a little more ‘discofied’. It contains a wonderful vocal cameo by The Fall’s Mark Smith in Seventies Night, which adds an air of menace to the song that has been lacking in most of Collins compositions (bar What Presence, from OJ’s third album). It’s a Euro record steeped in eccentricity and dance culture, as opposed to most of Collins’ work which is beholden to American soul. Still a very worthy album, though.

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