Completing a triptych of albums, The Waterboys’ Good Luck, Seeker is their 14th studio effort, one influenced by films, books, The Rolling Stones – anything, really. Remaining somewhat in the vein of 2017’s Out Of All This Blue and Where The Action Is from last year, Good Luck, Seeker is awash with mythical references, autobiographical observances and namechecking – some obvious, some not – and with such an eclectic journey throughout its 14 tracks, there’s surely something here for everyone.
Mike Scott has seen bandmates come and go, always remaining the one constant, and his light seems destined never to die out as the music – and the words – just keep on coming, admittedly with both ups and downs. As with other recent efforts – and just about everyone else’s due to social distancing – his ideas were circulated for other band members to furnish further. The results often point in the direction of the 1970s.
Where to start? It’s all such a cauldron of entertainment that any of the tracks here could be a foothold. Scott’s literary ability flexes its muscles everywhere you look, but if you want a short, sharp burst of rock ‘n’ roll then take the album-title-grabbing Stones nod, Sticky Fingers, which is all over in under a minute.
When you think of The Waterboys, perhaps The Whole Of The Moon is the first song to mind. Easily their signature tune, it enjoys countless radio plays 35 years after its release. If that’s you, try opener The Soul Singer. It’s similarly catchy and bouncy, yet this song is branded with a brass core as Scott tells of a renowned legend who’s “been around for 50 years” with words like, “he gets away with being rude, as everyone’s scared of his quicksilver moods”. As to who he’s referring to, maybe it’s Bob Dylan or James Brown, even; more likely, it’s Van Morrison, although it could just be a sleight of hand and be about some fictional character, but knowing Scott’s tendency to focus on real people, probably not.
For a bit of fun, try Dennis Hopper, a film star Scott has admitted to admiring, or for some ambience that has some Moby likenesses going on, give the title track a spin, lyrics telling of an obvious fact that most will have forgotten: “Through all ages humans have suffered.” Closer The Land Of Sunset again nods towards Moby territory, being more like sunrise as it awakens its petals carefully with Scott’s calm poetry coaxing them. Postcard From The Celtic Dreamtime turns towards ambience while Low Down In The Broom performs an acoustic about turn, being melodically enthralling in its minimalism.
If funk’s your fancy then that’s covered too, for Freak Street provides a short burst, but the swirling psychedelics of the vocoder-effect laden The Golden Work is a longer, more mesmerising taste. All of these wonderfully varying markers sit in the shade of an absolute monster: My Wanderings In The Weary Land. Taking an old demo that became Dream Harder’s The Return Of Jimi Hendrix resulted in not so much of an upgrade but a deluxe reworking that’s taken apart its predecessor and completely recast it in full-on solid gold. What an epic: striding forward purposefully like The Stone Roses’ I Am The Resurrection, the song possibly tells Scott’s own tale in captivating style, but it’s the music that glows even brighter, and the electric guitar versus violin solo battle is an absolute joy. If it was declared a new Wonder of the World then even that wouldn’t do it justice. This is surely The Waterboys’ finest ever hour.
It’s astonishing how much ground gets covered on Good Luck, Seeker. Sure, not every track is likely to resonate with every listener, but that’s all part of the charm: it’s a remarkable achievement that sits near, if not at, the top of the band’s entire catalogue. All you need to do is to find your spot and nuzzle snugly down, letting the music – and the words – do the rest.