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Roddy Frame | Surf (Redemption)
Oh, this boy wonders... how come, in this world full of so-so musicians, we haven't missed Roddy more? Where did it go wrong? He was once tipped as the man most likely to succeed, but it just never came. Now he's back and stripped down to a bare minimum. The Scottishness of 'High Land Hard Rain' has gone too, the cover shows night-time London and the opener, Over You, finds Frame wandering the capital's mean streets alone. There's no-one here to help him, the record is as bare as you get and it can sound thin in places, Small World being one, but the title track has more warmth without any help from extras, and his cracking voice, as he sings "when I was young the radio played just for me", will hit you hard. The whole album has a sorrowful, late-night feel as if the sun has sunk on a beautiful day that you were merely a spectator to, watching it all slip away with the dusk. It's arguable if so much sadness is a good thing, but if there was a jolly song here it would sound as out of place as an original tune on an Oasis album. Abloom has a jaunty feel, as the words spill out of his mouth, but the melancholy lurks around every corner as shown on Tough, where a breezy strum masks the truthful words "now your heart's gonna die and it's tough". Big Ben is pure winter sadness with a chill wind blowing straight off the Thames and "the city shivering below, all lit up, dreaming of spring's soothing hand". It does seem he has left the highlands behind him for good, the expansive optimistic sounds of yesteryear are replaced by the harsh realism of big city life. There are songs of love and hope, but they are wrapped with fear and mistrust, as if each song is a personal tragedy just waiting to happen. I don't want to put you off, it's a lovely record, just hard work at times, you'll be hard pushed to sing along to any of these, but would you want to? When the world is crumbling, it's nice to have someone who'll tell it like it is, when he sings "mixed up love and understanding" you can only nod your head sagely. It's a brutally truthful album, one to keep you company on a long night, or day, one that will be played by everyone at some point, whether they own it or not, one from and to the heart.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002