This is especially so on the excellent two opening tracks which set the bench mark for a well crafted superbly sung big production album. And it's the mix of a lush production with its chic 80's retro feel that essentially conjoins this album with the recent 'Graffiti Soul'.
There's simply no escaping the 80's electronics, the mix of dance beats, synth sweeps and the array of processed sounds - an integral part of the overriding wall of sound -that gives 'Lostboy' its potency.
But what distinguishes this album from so much of that new wave electronic era is Jim Kerr's overriding presence in the mix. He knows how to deliver a line, when to soar and when to swoop. He also knows how to phrase, when to hold back, when to deliver and when to shift from the role of a crooner to that of an excitable exclamatory boy.
He also pens some great lyrics as part of some noir narratives and it's that combination of clever word plays and a fine vocal performance that makes the opening 'Refugee' one of the very best tracks. Jim adds some deep breathy vocals and lets his poetic bent lose on the wonderfully titled 'She Fell in Love With Silence'. On 'Return of the King' there's a guitar led and whispered close to the mike vocal intro, before he evokes David Bowie with an unsettling emotive wail.
Better still is the Simple Minds/ U2 sounding 'Red Letter Day'. This stand out track is full of synth swirls, big dynamics and another very effective glorious retro sounding wall of sound. Once again Jim's vocal sweeps are powerfully effective and make the song very radio friendly.
'Remember Asia' embodies the kind of synth line that The Fixx made so popular in the States while 'Bulletproof Heart' offers another potential radio play with its strong melody, thumping bass line, repeated catchy guitar motif and great hook. This song would not have been out of place on a mid 80's Blue Nile album. Indeed there is no escaping the fact that aside from Kerr's own impressive performance, the key to enjoying this album is whether you embrace that mid 80's sound or not.
And while 'Lostboy' does slightly run out of steam and ultimately relies too heavily on the sort of beefy production techniques to be found on 'Soloman Solohead', Jim just about pulls things off on the closing celebratory and quasi epic 'The Wait Parts 1+2'.
For like much of this atmospheric album, the strong sonic quality, the hypnotic grooves, shimmering riffs, melodic twist and turns combined with Jim's unique sensual vocals and ultimately the songs themselves grow on you with repeated plays.
Jim solo career might be a case of having your cake and eating it, but with a recipe as good as this there will be more plaudits than grumbles.
Review by Pete Feenstra
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