Edwyn Collins has been in the business of making music since the 70s, first as the front man in the Nu-Sonics, which later became known as Orange Juice before he made his name as a solo artist. His latest album, Understated, which released on the 25th of March, is Collins’ 8th solo album to date.
Understated is proof that some musicians can continue doing what they do best without the incessant need to change their sound. Edwyn Collins continues to provide fans of northern soul with a supply of 60’s infused soul pop. With a baritone drawl, his voice has been described as a more guttural version of Bowie in some songs. The album features 11 tracks driven by solid drum beats and bass lines, and simple lyrics. With the exception of slower songs like Down the Line, which has definite roots in country, Forsooth and a cover of Rod McKuen’s Love’s Been Good To Me, the album is mostly up-beat.
Dilemna, the opening track for the album is featured in an official music video which was released days before the rest of the album and you could argue it’s the best track of the lot. The album titled track, Understated is another up-beat song with simple lyrics and smacks of sun-shining melody.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s a miracle that this album, or the two before it were even possible. Collins’ communication skills were almost completely destroyed by a devastating stroke in 2005, which resulted in a double brain hemorrhage. Immediately after the stroke his communicative skills were reduced to only 4 phrases. However, after intense rehabilitation he was able to release his album, Home Again in 2007. Though his recovery continues, his optimism is illustrated in his lyrics epitomised in 31 Years.
“I made it through my life once more, I feel alive, it’s good to feel.” – 31 Years
His previous album, Losing Sleep which was released in 2010, featured guest appearances from several well-known musicians including Franz Ferdinand lead singer Alex Kapranos, Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, and was praised by Richard Hawley as his favourite sound of 2010. Understated was released on AED records a collaborative label by James Endeacott and Edwyn himself. In addition to the digital version of the album, AED released physical CD and Vinyl versions of the record. The album cover art is an original linocut print of a salmon image that Collins handmade himself years ago, it gives the LP a feeling of beign crafted, organic and carved out of Edwyn’s own trial and tribulations.
It’s difficult to look past Edwyn’s good nature and optimistic spirit when it’s so clear in his lyrics but it’s even harder to overlook when you see the way he interacts with his fans. With the help of his wife and manager, Grace Maxwell, their website is a social ground for fans to keep in touch with Edwyn. Collins provides us with an insight into the old school rock star turned into a modern man of social media and existential resignation to happiness.
Put simply, Understated though likely to go under the radar of some, is a decent album with hopeful lyrics and happy rhythms which are artistry in it’s truest form; an expression of the artist. With summer approaching this album should sit near the top of your record collection.