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Graham Parker and the Rumour, one of the UK's pioneering pre-punk bands, returns with a new album, Mystery Glue. Written in Parker's second home of New York and recorded in just six days in the legendary RAK studios in London, Mystery Glue is a real return to form for this seminal British songwriter and powerhouse band, which features its original lineup of Parker, Bob Andrews, Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Andrew Bodnar and Stephen Goulding.
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This album is a continuation of his departure from the angry young man persona. Strangely, my immediate favorite on the album is his song "My Life in Movieland," about Graham's brief turn in Hollywood in the Apatow film "This is 40," but I'm sure others will grow on me. Graham always brings insight, warmth, sincerity and humor. Just saw him perform several songs from this album and others with Rumour guitarist Brinsley Schwarz, great show, as always. For the uninitiated, check out his first, "Howlin' Wind," and second, "Heat Treatment," but greatness is scattered throughout.
What confounds me is the fact that in the past decade Graham Parker was on a real roll, putting some terrific albums: "Songs of No Consequence" in 2005; "Don't Tell Columbus" in 2007; and "Imaginary Television" in 2010. I think that trio of albums rank in the Top 10 of anything he has ever done, with or without the Rumour. Those albums were dynamic and powerful, packed with catchy songs and brilliant lyrics. Which makes this new effort sound so weak and uninspired by comparison. When I hear GP spout lyrics like: "I live in a swing state, I live in a state of swing" it makes me wince. If your 8-year-old son had penned those lyrics, you would pat him on the head and say "nice one, kid, no go to bed." But to hear GP sing stuff like that and equally insipid material such as "Slow News Day" and "Fast Crowd" is almost sad.
To be fair, there are some very good songs on here too. I love the playfulness and peppy bounce of "Railroad Spikes". "I've Done Bad Things" contains some thought-provoking lyrics, and the lovely and moving "Flying Into London" is perhaps the best thing he's done with the resurrected Rumour. If there had been more songs of that quality I wouldn't feel so let down by this CD.
Reading the other reviews, it's obvious that this new album has impressed many fans. But try as I might, I can't call it "brilliant" or an inspired return of pub rock. But neither is is all "fluff" as one negative review labeled it. If you're a longtime fan like me --- and I've been following GP since the very beginning --- you'll most likely want to hear these new songs. By all means keep an open mind --- perhaps you'll like it more than I did --- but don't except greatness.