MUSIC | DEACON BLUE
With the release of Deacon Blue’s fourth album since their comeback, Nicola Meighan explores what made her fall head over heels for the Scottish pop-rockers
Maybe during these strange days, so far away from the 1990s, Deacon Blue’s five-year split is perceived to have been a passing hiatus. But for those of us who’d loved the band since childhood, who came of age obsessed by them, and who were so grief-stricken by the news of their disbandment that they drank all night, got thrown out of Burger King for singing and crying, then ended up face-down in the Edinburgh Waverley fountain, it felt like things would never be the same. And they never were, not really, although that would take much longer to learn.
I was a teenager when Ricky Ross, Lorraine McIntosh and co bid us farewell in 1994. The comprehensive rash incurred from being submerged in the aforementioned fountain had finally cleared up by the time of their 1999 comeback announcement, and life had shifted, too. I’d moved to London and was working for Mute records – touring with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Goldfrapp, Depeche Mode, Erasure and Einsturzende Neubauten – but was graciously granted a leave of absence to head home to Scotland and attend all of the Deacon Blue reunion shows. We queued all day and danced all night. More hollering; bawling; falling into water features; being ejected from fast food outlets. I think I loved them more than ever. They felt like the same old band. I wonder about that now. Friday 6 March saw the release of City of Love, Deacon Blue’s terrific
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fourth album since they got back together. That mirrors the four studio LPs they released pre-split (1987’s Raintown to ’93’s Seamus Heaney- invoking Whatever You Say, Say Nothing) and, throughout, City of Love enlightens and glimmers with a sense of reflection. Its title might be the most directly evocative of Ross’ adopted hometown of Glasgow since their landmark debut, but its intimacy is more redolent of 1991’s Fellow Hoodlums, which heralded the band’s active step-down from bombastic stadium rock to chamber pop and theatre shows. 1989’s Madonna chart-toppling When The World Knows Your Name was massive in scale, ambition and vision (‘The World Is Lit By Lightning’; ‘Silhouette’; a ‘distant gaze that’s missing me’; those famous Campsies over Christmas), but its follow-up, Fellow Hoodlums, took us up-close, arm-in-arm, through Ross’ beloved Dear Green Place. He guided us through after-hours Friday nights; round the beauty of Hope Street traffic lights; up against a hushed and urgent tryst in the pen behind Sloanes (those stilettos!); down leafy, sheltered Kelvin walkways.
City of Love feels closer than that. It feels like we find Ricky Ross writing from a more personal – and maybe more vulnerable – viewpoint than before. City of Love seeks out the quiet moments, far from the bombast. From the solace of shared candle-light (the glorious, Fleetwood Mac-invoking ‘In Our Room’) to the solitude of nature (the gospel-rock of ‘A Walk In The Woods’), it is poignant, pensive, yet never maudlin. If ‘Intervals’ stunning, astral pop reminds us of the ticking clock (‘so little time’), then the swoon-inducing soul of ‘Come On In’ urges us to make the most of our days, and nights. It finds Ross in rare boudoir-romeo mode: a sundown overture (‘come to life around midnight’); a fallible confession (‘I got it wrong so many times’); a ragged, come-hither catch in his voice. And that’s not to mention the heart-sore, jangling swagger of ‘Take Me’. Take that, Barry White. There were intimate moments on Fellow Hoodlums, not least the moonlit warmth of ‘The Wildness’, and ‘I Will See You Tomorrow’s unmade bed, but, looking back, that album was instilled with the assuredness (cynicism, even?) that underscored much of Ricky Ross’