Magazine article The Spectator

Aged-Related Patterns

Magazine article The Spectator

Aged-Related Patterns

Article excerpt

For many of us, the music that touches us most deeply remains the stuff we first heard between the ages of (give or take a couple of years) 14 and 22. During those all-important hormonal-explosion years, everything sounds more vivid, better played, more skilfully produced than all the rubbish that came before and the even more disappointing drivel that emerges thereafter. And because we were teenagers at the time, and echoes of teenage certainty stay with us forever, like acne scars, we often persist in the belief that this music was not just what we liked most but also objectively the best ever made. And obviously we're right. (By which I think I mean that I'm right and, if you disagree, you're wrong. ) Recently, though, I have noticed another age-related pattern in the music I love. I have been listening a lot to Stephen Duffy, an old favourite of this column's, to Lloyd Cole, divorced from his Commotions for many years now, and to Boo Hewerdine, who used to front The Bible in the late 1980s and is probably best known for his work with Eddi Reader. They are all singer-songwriters of a similar vintage, all English (although Cole has lived in America for 20 years), all literate, highly talented and about as far from the mainstream as it's possible to get. Admittedly, Duffy has had a burst of mainstream activity recently, having co-written and produced Robbie Williams's album Intensive Care, which sold 6 million copies and made Duffy rich.

As a consequence his many solo albums and those of his 80s/90s folk-rock band The Lilac Time have gradually been rereleased, as record companies try to cash in on a demand that almost certainly doesn't exist. But I'm delighted, as I have finally been able to plug a few holes in my Duffy collection. In fact, I bought the last one last week, and to avoid hearing it -- because then I'll have heard them all and there will be nowhere else to go -- I have been playing the other albums, particularly I Love My Friends (1995) and Keep Going (2003). What a stunning songwriter he is, trying almost everything on these records to make the world love him, and failing as consistently as anyone ever can have done.

The Lloyd Cole phase, meanwhile, came about when I heard a new song of his I liked on a magazine covermounted CD, and wandered back to his early 1990s solo albums to renew ancient acquaintance. …

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