Following the recent box set issue of the self-explanatory Studio Albums 1986-2016, the all-new Imaginary Lovers now gets a standalone release for fans who didn’t fancy forking out to buy albums they already had to get it. A sequential follow-up to his divorce album, How Things Are, this is the recovery collection, a less polished but more upbeat affair about putting your life back together and forging new relationships punctuated by the occasional look back at past events.
He’s been compared to Dylan in the past, but, while there’s inflections evident, opening indie rock strummer ‘Half-Time For You And I’ reminds more of Gerry Rafferty as, seasons changing through the song, he sings of the push-pull nature of a relationship that could go either way. It’s a mark of the altogether poppier and peppier nature of the album, a buoyancy carried over into the bouncy romance of ‘The Girl From The Twilight Hotel’ which might be best described as Al Stewart had he been in Brinsley Schwarz. ‘Rewriting The Rules of Beauty’ is quieter and slower, a softly tumbling acoustic song about realising you’re falling in love, a feeling that is also at the heart of the equally acoustic fingerpicked ‘Anywhere With You Babe’, while, on the softly shuffling, strings sprinkled, Every Time I Look Around he’s singing how “there was someone to get over” and “it was something had to go through oh baby to find you.”
If all this sounds like there’s a danger of drowning in a marshmallow sea, he does leaven the newfound bliss with the occasional note of caution, not looking to rush things (”take it easy baby, you don’t have to hurry, take it slow”) on the echoey slide guitar and keys backed ‘Sideways No Shadows’ or, as on the rather lovely ‘Nonchalant’, a reflective look back on how playing it cool might have dimmed the potential spark, wistful regret.
Which, perhaps inevitably, gives way to the album’s only song about loss, ‘The Only Thing Missing Here Is You’, a plaintive piano refrain backdropping a lyric which, repeating the title line at the end of almost every brief verse, details the rather chic flat (complete with “a fantastic shower”) in which the singer now lives alone, his lover having given him the keys and gone off.
If I’m being totally honest, the album does slightly peter out towards the end. ‘And I Want You’ is a throaty guitar rocker with Lou Reed inclinations ( not to mention a nod to the Eurythmics’ ‘Love Is A Stranger’ in the chorus) that probably works better live, dripping strings ‘You Mean Everything To Me’ is another number about leaping in heart first that doesn’t really add anything to what he’s already said and ‘Lonely International Guy’ (the travails of a long distance relationship) is, frankly, a bit of a plod. It does, however, end on a high note with ‘Everybody Wants Somebody’, even if it does borrow the opening line from Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talking’ and sounds remarkably like an Oasis ballad. Personally, I prefer White when he’s baring his teeth rather than his heart, but there’s some good stuff here it would be churlish to begrudge the man the warm glow of a rekindled flame.
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Artist’s website: www.andywhite.com
‘Half Time For You And I’ – official video: