Boo Hewerdine - God Bless The Pretty Things
Boo Hewerdine, back with his first band album for a decade, is regarded as somewhat of a legendary librettist, the songwriter’s songwriter, but there’s little evidence here to indicate how that reputation came about. God Bless the Pretty Things ought to feel fresh and vital but it actually just sounds tired and rather lost in time. The world has moved on apace in the last decade and we are currently awash with guitar wielding troubadours, both male and female, with a story to tell. The band he’s assembled for this project tells its own story; with musicians culled from Del Amitri, and both Eddie Reader and Mark Knopfler’s backing bands this was always going to be a fairly cosy and unchallenging project, and while it is acoustically pleasant on the ear I’d it never threatens to demand attention.
Understatement has its place in music but the bottom line is that this album is just too safe; overly staid and lacking in any humour it fails to engage the listener. Mark Knopfler, with whom Hewerdine shares a common McCusker, can afford to pen safe and dull songs because he has the fallback position of being a world class guitar legend but Hewerdine has nowhere to hide if you happen to find his songs a tad uneventful. It is all a matter of taste of course and there will always be those who’ll find comfort in his languid, uneventful style. The degree to which the album is shackled by tradition is best encapsulated in ‘New Year’s Eve’, which is a Celtic infused ballad comprised of lyrics such as and I will take a strangers hand and sing auld lang syne. It is hard to criticise an album which captures an artist coasting on a plateau of domestic contentment but, as introspective songs such as ‘Soul Mate’ and ‘You and Me’, demonstrate, satisfaction rarely makes for great art.
Best of the bunch are the yearning homecoming tale of 'Sleeping Lions' and the reflective, jazz inflected, 'Rags' which sees Hewerdine ponder his future and debate whether he'd give himself assistance if he ever met himself in dressed in rags. Philosophically and conceptually sound God Bless The Pretty Things is a brief glimpse into the soul of an artist, but it is unlikely to convert any fence sitters. One for the fans.