Mojo magazine is an esteemed publication which I have subscribed to for more years than I care to remember. In such a long-term relationship you learn to trust the opinions of some of the best writers in music. They have opinions you can trust. I can even forgive them for having The Beatles on the cover more often than is really necessary. Yeah, I know it ‘shifts units’ but seriously guys! However, when I opened my Mojo on 28 July 2012 the delight in seeing that “Bleached Highlights”, the latest project from Joe McAlinden, had actually been reviewed was somewhat tempered by a rather measly, if not downright tight, three stars out of five.
I know opinions are subjective and we’re all entitled to our own but I was disappointed in the reviewer’s comments. He suggested it was “more of a slight return than a confident comeback”. Now, I was already a big fan of Joe’s work, throughout his music with The Groovy Little Numbers, BMX Bandits, the criminally-underrated Superstar and NOM so I may have been looking at the review through groovy little McAlinden tinted glasses but I couldn’t really agree. This record has heart and soul and comes imbued with a power to move without being over-emotional. Not for Joe is the identikit Indie 2.0 practiced by unfeasibly skinny boys in skinnier jeans and floppy fringes. He plays what I call real music; music that isn’t following the latest trendy bandwagon. Songs and harmonies and hooks and not just throwaway verses and repetitive one-line choruses rammed down our throats by BBC6Music and TV adverts
Not only does “Bleached Highlights” sparkle but it stands up to repeated listening as I can testify to tonight. I was already familiar with the double A-side single “Brown Bird Singing”/”If I Had Wings” and figure, as one does, that they would be the strong leading tracks of the album. How wrong I was. “Bleached Highlights” is a fine, sparklingly beautiful guitar-driven album that you can return to time and time again, long after one-chorus wonders like Spector have quit the biz and gone back to art college.
Maybe the man from Mojo only listened to it once but one thing it doesn’t lack is confidence. After stepping off the music business roundabout, Joe is ready to get back on but at his own pace and in his own time. Let’s just hope it isn’t another decade before the next Joe McAlinden-fuelled project. I love this album already and it’s still growing on me. I think you’ll like it too.
A special mention to “backroom” staff on this record. Edwyn Collins, on whose label this record is brought to you, produced the album alongside Sebastian Lewsley at AED HQ at West Heath. Another AED recording artiste James Walbourne twanged the guitar and mandolin, with drumming duties shared between Bert Mosh (six tracks) and ex-Sex Pistol Paul Cook (four tracks). Joe, such is his talent, played everything else and we mustn’t forget the ever-colourful cover from Jim Lambie, featuring his work “Vortex”.
There’s more good news as Joe and his merry band of minstrels are rehearsing for some imminent dates. See you all down the front.
“Bleached Highlights” by Linden is out now on AED Records.