We should be glad that our commercial overlords gave Lucky Jim another chance to sing...
Nickie Latham 2007
What’s the most regrettable fate that can befall a band? Selling out or selling nowt? Picture the scene - a group of fatcat suits fling coins at the nation’s revered troubadours, shouting 'Dance monkeys dance! That we may sell more reconstituted meat products/hairnets/toilet brushes!' This is not good. However, now picture another scene - your very favourite album lies alone and unloved in an abandoned store-room, the tracks of its tears creating furrows in its accumulated surface dust as it awaits deletion.
A sobering thought, I know you’ll agree, and the fate that appeared to have been marked out for Lucky Jim’s 2004 release Our Troubles End Tonight - despite widespread critical acclaim - before the single “You’re Lovely To Me” was picked up and dusted off by a certain chain of breadmakers, leading to the re-packaging of the album.
For those who missed it first time round, Our Troubles... arguably makes even more sense in the current musical climate than it did on first release. Most bizarre of all, is that the single that’s revived it is, in fact, one of the weakest songs on the album. It’s a pleasant enough, Dylanesque saunter through a sentiment that James Blunt has built a career on, which barely hints at what Gordon Grahame is capable of.
The album’s real strength is found in the arrangements which create an otherworldly quality that is particularly obvious in the title track. Here, soft, sombre synths create a rich psychedelic backdrop to Grahame’s breathy vocal. Elsewhere, on “Leah”, a swirling organ waltz vibrates warmly with a touch of the Scott Walkers as Grahame laments, “Children are wishes that never come true. Even the least of them come to leave you.”
This is an album which doesn’t try to hide its influences and, though mannered in places, it offers enough invention to avoid pastiche. In “The Honeymooners”, a moody duet with Heather Banks, the ghost of Lee Hazelwood lingers behind the lines, but doesn’t undermine it. For this song alone, we should be glad that our commercial overlords gave Lucky Jim another chance to sing in our ears and make some real bread.