A Rock In The Weary Land

If nothing else, you should applaud his timing.

If nothing else, you should applaud his timing. In a year when the shores are awash with bands striving to capture the Big Music, Mike Scott has returned with the first [a]Waterboys[/a] album for seven years – a record of vaunting ambition that dispenses with his recent folk past in favour of monumental rock soundscapes.

Of course, his work with The Waterboys has always been synonymous with such epic gesturing. Scott‘s questing spirit has continually driven him to make music both rich in melodrama and pretension and – after two commercially disastrous solo albums – it’s no surprise to see him returning to that blueprint.

Constructed with original member Anthony Thistlewaite and current Spiritualized associate Thighpaulsandra, ‘A Rock In The Weary Land’ starts and finishes brilliantly. The first two songs – ‘Let It Happen’ and ‘My Love Is My Rock In The Weary Land’ – dwarf anything attempted by the class of 2000. The latter song, in particular, with its vast crescendos of Crazy Horse guitar noise and choral interludes, is magnificent. It’s a shame then that after scaling such a peak, Scott only matches it with the closing ‘Crown’ (a song that ends in a haze of panning guitar effects and free-form sax). There might be moments in between that come close (the piano throb of ‘Is She Conscious?’, for instance), but the hollow bombast of ‘We Are Jonah’ and the sludgy ‘Dumbing Down The World’ undermine what, otherwise, would have been a masterpiece.

As it is, this remains a welcome reminder of an almost forgotten talent, as well as an object lesson in the art of production (the whole record sounds amazing). Even if this album occasionally spins way off into the ether, there’s still more than enough to justify The Waterboys‘ re-emergence. JJ72 should take note.