The Hipsters is the first studio album from the band in a decade, should we be excited? I think we should. This album is a return to form with some amazing songs, and it couldn't have come at a better time. It's the 25 anniversary since their début album Raintown was released. The album you may remember brought us some great songs like Dignity and Chocolate Girl, so it was good to learn that the band are back on tour and have been back in the studio after so long away.
Dougie Vipond, the bands bass player says “the songs are some of the best Ricky's written for a long long time.” I'm inclined to agree, the lyrics are poetic and thought provoking and the music is equally passionate. It is indeed Ricky Ross at his best.
The first track Here I am in London Town has a haunting string and piano opening and is a wonderful overture to the rest of the album. It is essentially about reflection, it's slightly sad, but has a glimmer of optimism by being given a second chance. Lead singer Ricky Ross says “ I was in a London studio belonging to Jamie Cullum and I was sitting at the piano thinking its a nice chance to play piano on my own and I started playing and thinking here I am in London town...And it was kind of funny to think of yourself being in London where you came to try and make your fortune you know. And all these years later you're doing it again.”
The single and titular track from the album follows and drives you forward into the rest of the album with its strong string arrangement and catchy chorus. It is also ironic as the band never considered themselves to be 'hip', although I am sure their fans would disagree. I think they are 'hipper' than ever. This album largely has a very different Deacon Blue sound more akin to The Killers or Coldplay, putting them in the indie rock camp for this album. If you close your eyes you could imagine Brandon Flowers singing the brilliant rocky balladTurn which is raw and full of powerful, emotionally charged lyrics.
Another stand out track is Stars with its punchy melancholic bridge:
This cruel world seems full of unhappiness
If our lives collide we may get out of this....
People can be easily destroyed I guess
We're only just a word away from happiness.
Before propelling you into a love story of space and time. It reminds me a little of Deacon Blue mixed with Snow Patrol which is probably why I like it. It really is an amazing song.
How does Ricky (who has spent a great deal of time in the last decade writing for other artists) come up with these great songs? “writing is definitely a way of exploring your feelings. You can take yourself down imaginary roads, what would happen if this happened or that happened?...It's true if it's emotionally true. Sometimes going off on these flights of fancy and imagining the unthinkable is cathartic.” Ricky tells me about She'll Understand another songfrom the album which he says started off as a very real thing. “I was driving out to the airport and Lorraine was away on tour doing theatre and she'd gone away that morning. I was thinking she's away again, and so that became the first line of the song. And then it quickly became another song about a guy who loses the plot makes a fool of himself gets drunk gets into fights.” It really is fascinating to talk to him about his writing therapy. The proof of his genius is really shown on this album.
The anthemic That's What We Can Do is old school Deacon Blue and is sure to become a fan favourite and will be amazing live. The song has a great sense of urgency and drive helped along by Lorraine's backing vocals and harmonies which once again help to add to that distinctive Deacon Blue feel.
The album ends with a song co written by Lorraine and Ricky and is probably my favourite track. Is There No Way Back To You is a truly great love song with an addictive melody. With this album it really does feel that the band have found their way back to their audience, and hopefully will draw in some new fans too.
The Hipsters is an album that grows on you the more you listen to it until it creeps under you skin and takes over your very being until you find yourself singing along to the songs and wondering how you learnt them all so quickly. Ricky, Lorraine, Dougie and James, it's good to have you back!