Self-recorded in hometown Glasgow with Henderson playing pretty much everything, it opens with a song inspired by Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death about the dumbing down of popular culture and public discourse, 'Jesus and Jezebel', the most musically upbeat track, gathers together drums, piano, guitars and strings for a catchy chorus Costello-like classy pop number about the modern world of "Snapchat romance and instant affairs", "Paracetamol and cheap cherryade".
Climbing aboard a rusting carousel, 'Difficult Girl' continues the musical association with a song about the ability to simultaneously hold contradictory positions while demanding consistency, the object of the lyric all "Barbed wire and flowers", reverb guitars taking us into the piano-backed title track balladry about slow societal change and the clockwork clowns who want to sustain the status quo in their favour.
A paraphrasing of a line from Shakspeare's The Tempest ("We are such stuff as stars are made of") opens the ruminative guitar patterns of the dreamily lovely 'Stars', a musing on the briefness of life but of what we pass down to our children and of learning to appreciate the grand design of the universe as he sings "We are the stories that we tell/We are the conscious light/That lingers on/A hope that will remain when we have gone".
By contrast, featuring the play on words refrain "How the dark night fades away/In the light of a brand new day", the moody, late night jazzed blues 'Hey Batman' is about becoming irrelevant (" I haven't seen you in a while/Looks like your type of crime/Is going out of style") and how "Some joker on the street/Is walking in your shoes".
There's a classic soulfulness to the weary acoustic sway of 'Next Time I Meet You', a welcome end to a difficult relationship ("I'm worn down weary of all your raging/All the condemnations that you are waging/And I've grown sick/Of all your party tricks") that has a vague musical kinship with 'I Don't Want To Talk About It', while bringing an end to things also underpins the slow military drum beat of 'Nobody Gets Hurt', a song about learning to let go of dreams that are never going to come true ("You can take the decorations down/Bring the chairs in off the lawn/This party's good as over now/Everybody's going home") without seeing it as failure, stepping back, reassessing things and finding a new meaning because it "Doesn't matter what you lose…It only matters what you choose".
Another Costello-ish track, tinged with reverb guitar and brass, the reflective 'Like We Never Do' has another carousel waltz feel, the song speaking of the difficulty with talking about mental health issues and the consequences that suffering in silence can bring ("They found his clothes out by the pond/Couldn't say how long he'd been gone/He must've been troubled, but never let on").
By way of thematic swerve, using bluesman Robert Johnson's supposed deal with the devil as a springboard, the spare and moody 'Don't Drink The Water' concerns metaphorical or actual Faustian pacts, throaty electric guitar crackling as he warns "There's blood in the river/So don't drink the water", making what you politically will of his notes of one such bargaining away of souls in the Chiltern Hills near Chequers.
It ends on another watery note and the brooding, echoey guitar and piano backing of the almost West End musical-styled 'It's Only Rain',a final note of reassurance that, whatever the thunder and storm might portend it's "nothing we haven't seen before" and that "Every dying star/Leaves a trail across the universe/Every weary pilgrim goes on believing/And every broken heart/Goes on beating".
Given the Costello references, you could think of this as a lost Elvis album between All This Useless Beauty and Painted From Memory. Yes, it's that good.
Mike Davies - Fatea Magazine