Friday, November 28, 2014

Waterboys 1: The Waterboys

The brain child of one Mike Scott, an earnest young man equally obsessed with romantic poetry and pop music, the band known as The Waterboys went through a variety of styles and even more permutations in a relatively short time without ever truly catching on in the States outside of what used to be considered alternative radio. For the first few albums anyway, there was a consistency, best described by the eventual song title “The Big Music”. In the early ‘80s, this was a style comparable to that of U2 and Big Country, suggesting that the smaller countries in the British Isles were about to take over music. (They didn’t, but it was nice while it lasted.)
The Waterboys is pretty solid for a mostly one-man band effort recorded across different sessions. The trilling “December” is an unlikely Christmas song, so much so that it needn’t be limited to just one time of year. “A Girl Called Johnny” was the first single, sporting the distinctive sax of the even more distinctively named Anthony Thistlethwaite, who would be the most consistent Waterboy through most of their career. “It Should Have Been You” is the most traditionally constructed song, if a bit overwrought vocally. “The Girl In The Swing” isn’t much, but its 6/8 time nicely matches the image of the title.
His piano playing is a lot more interesting than the plodding style from later albums, as demonstrated on the meandering yet mesmerizing “Gala”, which any other producer would have edited severely. From time to time the drum machine gets a little robotic, as on “The Three Day Man”, yet the one track with a full band, the pointedly defiant “I Will Not Follow”, not exactly a riposte to those Irish boys, sounds the most like vintage ‘80s. Speaking of which, “Savage Earth Heart” isn’t too far removed from Dublin either; while another long solo performance, one can hear the potential to sound bigger and better with a full band.
The Waterboys appeared in North America first as a five-song mini-album, before becoming standard worldwide with eight songs. With the rejigging of the catalog, it’s since been expanded with a few B-sides, unreleased tracks and “Gala” extended to its full 9½-minute length. It remains an impressive debut.

The Waterboys The Waterboys (1983)—3
2002 CD remaster: same as 1983, plus 7 extra tracks

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review! Your blending of informative context & historical content tempered with clear and accurate opinion is elevated by the nuance of your charming wit. Your namesake was misrepresented in 80's toilet tissue commercials Mr. Whipple. Bravo!