Reissue review: Stephen Duffy – I Love My Friends
THE FORMER DURAN DURAN VOCALIST’S MUCH UNDERRATED 1996 ALBUM DEBUTS ON VINYL. YOU NEED TO OWN THIS.
Named after a 1996 single by Stephen Duffy, Needle Mythology is a brand new record label co-founded by music journalist, broadcaster and inveterate vinyl hoarder Pete Paphides, who is characteristically frank about his reason for setting it up. “Because I wanted to buy these records, and they didn’t exist in the form [vinyl] that I wanted,” he says. “I couldn’t sit around waiting for someone else to do it any longer.” It’s thus ﬁtting that this lost classic 1998 Duffy record is Paphides’ launch release as it is similarly shot through with direct, transparent honesty.
It’s a cliché to refer to ruminative singer-songwriter albums as ‘confessional’ but the tender I Love My Friends really did sound like an inner reverie, ampliﬁed: a man-child thinking aloud. The tone of a bruised soul reﬂecting on where he is, and how he got there, was set by the opening Tune In, in which snatches of old songs by Duffy – a Duran Duran founder member, and veteran of Tin Tin and The Lilac Time – faded in and out as if you were surﬁng an FM radio dial. Eucharist doubled down on the bittersweet autobiography: “I was born in poverty/ When I was about 19/ I wrote a song called Kiss Me/ And soon it was payday…” The mood, though, was anything but triumphalist.
Possessed of a rich brown croon reminiscent of Morrissey or Tim Booth, and surﬁng haltingly fragile jangle-pop, Duffy was doggedly intent on itemising his failings. On Lover’s Beware he was lost, wracked, in unrequited love; by Twenty Three he was on ecstasy and aiming to “write just poetry/ And live upon a hill”. Gentle self-mockery abounded.
Here were songs of dreams and self-doubt, beautifully realised and recited with wide eyed candour. Most affecting was The Postcard, a wry eulogy for a teenage sweetheart who dies, years later, of an overdose, ushering in regret laden intimations of mortality: “I feel as through the past is closing in on me.”
Paphides and Duffy reinstate the original intended tracklist with two Andy Partridge-produced songs, You Are and What If I Fall In Love With You, now on an accompanying 7” single. A 2CD set includes unreleased Duffy demos from the period, yet it is this lost gem’s core songs that truly enchant.
Crying out for rediscovery, I Love My Friends is a lovely, lovely album.