Some Other Sucker's Parade (A&M Records)
By: Todd Martens
Disappointment comes in all sorts degrees. Major disappointment: finding out an object of desire is already seeing someone else. Slightly more than major disappointment: finding out an object of desire is already engaged to someone else. Then there's minor disappointment: paying seven dollars to see a bad movie. And in-between major and minor, there's average disappointment: hearing that an ex just received a new promotion. Well, somewhere smack-dab in the middle of average and major is the level of disappointment one has when hearing a decent album from a once great and very promising band. Kind of like finding out school would have been closed if it just would have snowed one more inch.
Eight years ago, Scotland's Del Amitri released Waking Hours, one of 1989's best albums. On this album, the band displayed a knack for creating delicately arranged melodies over Justin Currie's and Ian Harvie's superbly descriptive lyrics that probed in and around relationships, always giving the listener a fresh take. Three years later the band followed with "Change Everything." A few band members came and went, but Del Amitri's core was still in tact and still creating the delicate and carefully arranged melodies that were found on the last album. The lyrics were just as sharp, and the band displayed marvelous growth most notably on tunes like "Just Like A Man," adding small elements of slick jazz and blues. Then things started to take a turn in the opposite direction. Del Amitri's last, Twisted, was not a bad album, nor is Some Other Sucker's Parade, but it showed the band was moving away from its trademark feather-like arrangements. Instead of adding new dimensions to what the band had previously perfected, Del Amitri started moving into more of a harder direction, which now meant simpler, faster and shorter songs with guitars that no longer created atmospheres, but now led?with distortion. Basically, the band was moving in a more of an alternative direction.
And thus is where Some Other Sucker's Parade picks up. Currie and Harvie are still terrific song-writers, though clearly not at the top of their game, and the majority of the songs are pleasant to listen too and unfortunately, easy to forget.
"Not Where It's At," the first single, opens the album and immediately lets the listener in on what to expect. Where Currie previously offered startlingly real pictures of what it was like to be a guest at a wedding where one wanted to be the groom, and gave us the words that are too often left unspoken in a dead-end relationship, Currie now writes, "And some girls they will worry about reactions / And some girls they don't give a damn for that . . .Yeah, she don't want me / Cause I'm not where it's at." Not quite as introspective. However, the song is a catchy opener and a couple ear-pleasing pop songs can always be forgiven.
Unfortunately, what follows is the title track. Here, Currie curses his own luck and is only waiting for it to rain on someone else's parade. "It ain't no sin to drink when you're suffering," Currie writes. Then pass me the bottle.
Thank heaven that the next couple tracks show signs of the Del Amitri of old and will be destined to make the bands' inevitable best of.
Currie is no longer the love-struck young man he was a decade ago and is now, in a way, offering advice. On "Won't Make It Better," he warns that the past cannot be walked away from, and on "Medicine" he notes that you can "get yourself another lover," but adds, "sometimes it's the medicine itself that makes the pain."
The two best songs included on this album are slower and more carefully arranged pieces. "What I Think She Sees" and "Make It Always Be Too Late" offer proof that Currie can still be a top-notch songwriter. On the latter, Currie sings, "I can't see beyond / The Pretty things that living here brings everyone / So get lost with me, let the world wait / Make it always be too late." This song itself is enough to give the album some redeeming qualities.
The rest of the album is a grab-bag of simple arrangements and average lyrics. The worst being "High Times," an endless barrage of annoying falsettos, distorted vocals and bland guitars.
The band may feel it has to change its sound, but instead of adding to what it had, Del Amitri has taken up uninteresting and cold arrangements. There was a time when Del Amitri was quite possibly one of the most promising bands around, and to hear an album like this from a once terrific band is like watching a close friend make mistake after mistake. You want to believe that someday that friend will get back on the right track, but in the meantime, all you can do is sit back and think, 'what a disappointment it turned out to be.' C+ (Two--out of four--stars)