By Al Kaufman
You know Justin Currie. He was singer and songwriter behind Del Amitri, the ’90s Scottish pop-rock band that had a knack for playing instantly familiar tracks, such as “Always the Last to Know” and “Roll to Me;” songs that everyone knows, but nobody knows who sings them.
When Del Amitri lost their recording contract in 2002, Currie went solo. What Is Love For (named Rebound across the pond) was his first CD, which, according to the self-deprecating Currie, is full of “thunderously dreary dirges.” His second CD, The Great War, offers everything that his Del Amitri fans adore. There is instantly accessible power-pop, catchy melodies, and Currie’s somewhat sardonic humor. He is a hopeless romantic who is just this side of giving up on it all. Here is a man who writes lyrics such as “Home is anywhere I’m away from you” and “I won’t feel alone as long as you don’t come back” backed by impossibly upbeat melodies. He’s not flashy, he’s just real good. If he worked with wood, he would produce mission style furniture; impeccably crafted to look deceptively simple.
The Great War opens with “A Man With Nothing to Do,” a crisp little number that would have fit right in with the best Del Amitri cuts. Nothing else on here is as crystalline, but the synth-heavy “A Home Inside of Me,” the guitar driven “Ready to Be,” and the clever “As Long as You Don’t Come Back” come close.
The rest of the CD ain’t too shabby either. With his weathered vocals, he is even able to pull off the depressing, eight-minute epic, “The Fight to Be Human” without coming off as maudlin. “Anywhere I’m Away from You” has a cool film-noir quality about it, while “Everyone I Love” has an eerily industrial bend to it. But before you think a song like that would be happy, the line from which the title gets its name is “Tonight I’m gonna hurt everyone I love.”
Justin Currie may not be a happy guy, but he is certainly a talented guy who stills knows his way around a melody and a lyric. To hear his songs is to hear the work of a master craftsman.