Thursday, September 27, 2007

We picked up the new Edwyn Collins album yesterday, there was a time recently when It looked as though we would never hear the wry stylings of this maverick musical figure again. Near fatal illness left him walking a tightrope between life and death, luckily he pulled through to amuse and entertain us further still.

It got me thinking about the nature of the strange virtual relationship we enjoy with our musical "friends". Approaching an album from someone who's work you have really enjoyed in the past is a little like catching up with an old friend that you haven't seen for a long time. There is a feeling of excitement mixed with a degree of trepidation. Will the relationship sustain? Have you and the performer moved apart from each other, or will you still feel that special connection?

There where times in the past when the strange one-way bond was very close, when Edwyn was popular you'd be listening to the latest album and reading interviews in newspapers and magazines, hearing him chatting on the radio and performing on TV. For a short while everywhere that you looked or listened Edwyn would be there, if the music was good and chat was interesting and amusing the relationship would strengthen. Inevitably after a few months the flow of publicity would slow but the chance of a live appearance would rekindle the link.

Occasionally the performer lets you down, a sloppy live performance or a poor record leaves you feeling that your "friend" doesn't care about you in the quite the same way as you do for them. How could Edwyn release such a downright dull record as "Dr. Syntax" as he did in 2002, so your feelings change and you become a little annoyed about the time which you invested him, much like arranging to meet a friend who let's you down by failing to show up or putting you off at the last minute. Gradually you drift apart, interest wanes on both sides.You find new people to amuse you, time is rarely spent in each others company.

And then, the illness struck and you only remember the pleasure that the person has given you. His sense of style and individuality, the lyrical dexterity coupled with the withering sarcasm which marked some of his finest records, the great songs which would have you reaching to turn up the volume as you drove along with an admiring look on your face. Snatches of news about improvements in his condition are savoured and eagerly shared with other like minded friends. It's almost like having a friend or relative that lives overseas, this strange dislocated relationship which has the power to affect you, yet you can offer nothing in return.

The good news is that the "friendship" looks like it's in a good place again. The initial play of the album indicates that good times are ahead, the songs are strong and the arrangements interesting. Welcome back Edwyn, it's great to have you back in the fold again.

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