mon 27/06/2022

Album: The Waterboys - All Souls Hill | reviews, news & interviews

Album: The Waterboys - All Souls Hill

Album: The Waterboys - All Souls Hill

Mike Scott's ever-evolving troubadours attempt modernisation with mixed success

The Waterboys - too much Eightiesness?

This album starts with an unfortunate sound. Its title track begins with the kind of drum loop that rock bands from U2 on down adopted in the early 1990s having heard Massive Attack and Happy Mondays and deciding that they were going to get on the groovy train.

It’s unfortunate because as with all those Nineties bands, it remains completely beholden to a very Eighties Big Rock production style with over-egged notions of “fidelity”. Every element is neat, tidy, separated, sparkling – completely missing the point of what dance and hip hop producers were doing by hacking the possibilities of samplers and basic drum machines. 

And there’s a lot of that through this album. “The Southern Moon” with its twinkling programmed hi-hat patterns almost sounds like it’s trying to emulate 21st century trap beats, while “In My Dreams” – which has a completely spoken vocal from Mike Scott and ditches the guitars and horns which populate most of the tracks here – is tantalisingly close to classic trip hop. But it’s hard to get past that “Eighties-ness”, that sense of having missed the modernity bus. 

Hard, but not impossible. Because this is still a Waterboys record, and Scott is still as wonderfully gauche and grandiose as he ever was. There’s a lot of grand-sweep-of-history narratives, a lot of trans-Celtic trans-Atlantic rock’n’roll romanticism, and a huge helping of Dylan. Musically, things are great the more trad things get – mostly in the second half, with the big soft rock ballads “Hollywood Blues” and “Once Were Brothers”.  

And actually the high tech beats aren’t all bad in themselves. “In My Dreams” is gorgeous on its own terms, and the hedonistic boogie of album high point “Here We Go Again” almost, almost manages to approximate a Dr Dre hip hop beat, albeit once again enormously Eighties rock in its groove and sound. All in all, it’s a fun record, a grand record, and a fairly impressive place for a band 40 years into their existence to be. But there’s a significantly better record still fighting to get out, and if Scott could have grasped that dance music beat production is a craft in its own right and not just an extension of old-school studio techniques – maybe even brought in some younger hands to add some spice to his work – then maybe it could have emerged.

@joemuggs

Hear "Here we go Again":

There’s a lot of grand-sweep-of-history narratives, a lot of trans-Celtic trans-Atlantic rock’n’roll romanticism, and a huge helping of Dylan

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters