Relocating from London to his grandfather’s old house in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands in 2014 appears to have had a rejuvenating effect on Edwyn Collins. Not only has he built a new studio there, and at the suggestion of his wife, Grace Maxwellcorr, has revisited lyrics he had written before his stroke in 2005 but never previously used. The resulting album – Collins’s ninth solo effort – is a joy, brimming with ideas, but light of touch.
From the northern soul stylings and waspish wit of opener It’s All About You, via the skeletal Casio gospel of I’m OK Jack, through to the post-punk rush of Outside, as perfectly succinct as Pink Flag-era Wire, there’s a winning diversity at play. There’s a richness to Collins’s lyrics too: Glasgow to London finds him fondly reminiscing about the giddy excitement of Orange Juice’s early days alongside carefully deployed brass flourishes. In contrast, I Guess We Were Young reflects on their split. The title track, meanwhile, offers a heartbreaking depiction of the lives of the crofters evicted in the Highland clearances who resettled in a now-abandoned village near his studio (“Badbea, a ruined monument to life… and death”). Six years on from his last album, it’s good to have him back.