Thirty years on since The Return Of The Durutti Column, Vini Reilly is back with his band. It’s something a family affair this time, as his girlfriend Poppy Morgan brings more of her electric piano and backing vocals to the mix.
In fact the album performs a dual function, both as reunion and elegiac tribute – the latter made to Factory Records head Tony Wilson, whose ‘In Memory’ makes up the heavy tread of the opening track – a funeral march for a rather subdued rock band, in effect. Long time band member and friend Bruce Mitchell is also a dedicatee of the simple yet extremely effective For Bruce.
That isn’t as macabre as it sounds, for The Durutti Column waste little time in achieving that sense of quiet majesty that has characterised some of their best music. For this isn’t music to energise – but you probably knew that already. Rather, it works best when played at late night, its meditative qualities drawn to the fore, Reilly’s carefully studied guitar lines working their subtle yet strangely elusive magic.
In truth the sound benefits a lot from Morgan’s piano, particularly Wild Beast Tamed, which has a nice floating feel to it, but even more from her vocals, which add an extra dimension to I’m Alive. Both songs offer an extra dimension, giving the album variety.
There are political undertones, though sometimes it’s difficult to hear exactly what Reilly is singing about when the reverb is turned up. What can be discerned, however, is a couple of references to “God bless America”, made softly but with pointed emphasis. The second, made in Check Out My Keychain, follows by asking, “what are we trying to sell”? It seems to be an observation made against material gains and the advances of technology.
Speaking of which, the final track Lock Down sounds oddly out of place, advancing the drum sound by some twenty years as the backing takes on a fully electronic make-up, a throwback to Reilly’s experimentations with dance beats. It could almost be removed, to be honest, as the preceding Loser would make a suitably majestic closing track.
The themes of tributes and love in the time of recession come together on My Poppy, whose title says it all – a softly romantic dedication, low on schmaltz but high on atmosphere.
A strong return, then, from an always-underrated outfit that has deservedly kept its cult following without any need for compromising. Now he’s in the middle of a love affair, Vini Reilly has hit a rich vein of form once again, and his band sound individual as ever.