Mull Historical's Us is an album of genuine pleasure

Review by Jack Foley

MULL Historical Society mainman, Colin MacIntyre, is rightly being hailed as one of the most exciting songwriters of the moment, an artist capable of delivering quirky, but catchy, records that provide essential listening for anyone in need of a little cheering up.

He first came to prominence in 2001 with the gold-selling debut album, Loss, which spawned the single Xanadu, but has actually been writing songs since the tender age of six. This fascination for all things music has subsequently delivered Us, his latest long-player, which arrives off the back of the delightful single, The Final Arrears.

It is apt, then, that, the single should kick-off the album, albeit in a more sweeping form (if that were possible), providing a near-perfect start from which the album soars. MacIntyre's style has been likened to the Beach Boys' breezy style of songwriting, but, in truth, is closer to the Ben Folds, piano-led school of composition. For it is the intoxicating keys of the piano which stand out on almost every track.

But then this is an album packed with bittersweet harmonies, swirling organs, strings, harps, flutes and acoustic guitars, all of which combine to make a much vaster listening experience than Loss. As MacIntyre has matured, then so has his music, and Us bears all the hallmarks of an artist becoming more comfortable and assured with his style. It is a progression and a worthwhile one at that.

At its liveliest, the album delivers some genuinely feel-good indie moments, such as the rocky Gravity, or the hopelessly chirpy Oh Mother (in which he attempts to console his mother's sadness), or the anti-consumerism rant that is Live Like The Automatics (which boasts some terrific backing vocals and looks set to become another of the singles).

Elsewhere, however, the album veers into slightly more melancholic territory, delivering some really moody ballads, the most notable of which is the terrifically heartfelt Don't Take Your Love Away From Me - a piano-led plea to a departing lover which smacks with emotional resonance. Significantly, MacIntyre's vocals aren't found wanting, even when stripped bare of the backing which proliferates so many of the other tracks on the record.

The same can be said for the equally sombre, acoustically-driven track, Five More Minutes, which comes close to the laidback style of Turin Brakes at their best.

Yet the quirkiness which pervades throughout is never far away, and the album quickly replaces any sadness with the wryly observed, The Supermarket Strikes Back, or the twee Can, which builds to a genuinely rousing finale.

Us works best as a happy mindtrip away from reality, a break from the norm (punctuated by lyrics such as 'I'd lend you my mind, but I'm crazy'), and one which is great just for drifting along to.

It is a gentle, unassuming, pleasant daydream of a record which really ought to widen the MacIntyre appeal.

Track listings:

1. The Final Arrears
2. Am I Wrong
3. Oh Mother
4. Asylum
5. Live Like The Automatics
6. Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me
7. Minister For Genetics And Insurance Mp
8. 5 More Minutes
9. Gravity
10. Can
11. The Supermarket Strikes Back
12. Clones
13. Her Is You
14. Us
15. Can’t Do It (CD Rom Bonus Track)
16. You Asked Her To Marry You (CD Rom Bonus Track)
17. MHS Lady (CD Rom Bonus Track)
18. When I’m Awake (Cavum) (CD Rom Bonus Track)