Review: Edwyn Collins – Badbea
If you’ve seen 2014’s deeply moving documentary, The Possibilities Are Endless, you’ll understand the struggles Edwyn Collins faced following his two 2005 cerebral haemorrhages.
If you’ve looked at his discography, though, you’ll barely know they occurred. Badbea’s the fourth album he’s released since – though admittedly 2007’s Home Again was recorded before his misfortunes began, and only mixed 18 months afterwards – and it’s tempting to let his courage colour one’s reaction to his music. But what Badbea proves is that Collins doesn’t need sympathy.
Though his voice may have suffered, he’s also, quite apart from a masterful melodicist, a distinguished lyricist given to expressions of understated, succinct eloquence. It’s All About You, which opens the album in jovial fashion – “The sun was a bright bikini yellow/ The sky was a Wedgwood Blue/ The mood was unspeakably mellow” – appears first to be a pledge to a lover, but closer attention reveals it’s a sly putdown of an unbearable narcissist as he adds, “You came and spoiled the view”.
Beauty, meanwhile – whose quiet acoustics recall Mark Knopfler’s work on Local Hero’s soundtrack – is a pithy catalyst for the kind of resolve he himself has exhibited: “Don’t despair/ Fight the fight/ Don’t give up/ It’ll be alright”.
There are acknowledgements, too, of his mortality on I Guess We Were Young, whose colourful mariachi flavours embellish recollections of a youthful relationship – “I was wild and so was she/ I guess we were young” – and on the rubbery synth and sax shuffle of Glasgow To London: “Now I’m old, I must admit/ I couldn’t give a fuck.”
With Tensions Rising’s thrusting groove and howling vocals, and, in contrast, the title track’s ode to a deserted village near his highlands home, it’s clear: the possibilities remain endless.