Darkly uplifting second album from Scottish pop visionary
Mull historical society’s debut loss landed in late 2001 with a bracing freshness British pop had almost forgotten. Mull native Colin MacIntyre, the Society in all but name, sang brightly of islands, severing links, losers, and the recent loss of his father, and gathered tens of thousands to his odd, isolated cause in 2002.
Us initially seems more of the same?as with all strong sensations, the first time’s impact can’t be repeated. But closer inspection reveals clear, happy developments, both musical and emotional. Self-produced again, psychedelic codas and the like soon slot into a unique sonic world with ’70s glam and singer-songwriters buried in its foundations, but with enough eccentrically stroked harps, synthesized organs and ringing chimes to still sound like nothing but MHS themselves.
What really matters, though, after Loss’ celebration of strength in exile and isolation, is MacIntyre’s vulnerable, desperate search for connection this time. “I don’t know how to belong/I don’t know where to begin”, he sings on deceptively triumphal opener “The Final Arrears”, while “Am I Wrong?” and “5 More Minutes” are about regaining lost love, saying he can change, that he saved her life once, that he’ll find the right words in a minute.
Us’ home stretch is an almost unbroken description of a quest for salvation in someone’s arms, and the pain that failure brings, impotently demanding that “somebody else must be with me” while claiming “Asylum”.
“Us” closes the journey equivocally (“I was us when you were you”). But the sense of being closer to others by still risking reaching for them at all is the small, hard triumph MacIntyre ends the Society’s minutes with this time. Poppily uplifting, Us is an album with drowning depths.