I think Graeme Downes has lost his mind. The longtime Verlaines frontman is known for obtuse lyrics, unusual arrangements, and vocals that slalom between the melodic and the challenging. I’m familiar with most of the band’s previous nine studio albums and there isn’t one like Untimely Meditations in the bunch. At first I thought it was going to be a more direct record. The opening song, “Born Again Idiot,” has lyrics I could grasp on first listen and a great guitar riff that went right from A to B. All right, I thought, let the Verlaines make a more commercial album. They’ve paid their dues over the past thirty years, let ‘em indulge. How wrong I was. This record swerves wildly, not just from song to song but within songs. Horns that sound like Van Morrison. Guitar lines like Steely Dan. A boozy rhythm section that calls to mind the Kinks early ‘70s days on RCA. Sounds awful right? Even if you dig one or more of those elements, they have no right being in the same beaker. I think Graeme Downes is crazy for trying and genius for pulling it off. It’ll take me months to wrap my head around all ten tracks, but I’ll be trying.
–Mike Faloon (Flying Nun, flyingnun.co.nz)