thu 20/02/2020

CD: Jeff Lynne's ELO - Alone in the Universe | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jeff Lynne's ELO - Alone in the Universe

CD: Jeff Lynne's ELO - Alone in the Universe

Brummie soft rock demigod holds back the tides of progress

Timeless simplicity – Jeff Lynne's ELO

There's something reassuringly resistant to modernity about Jeff Lynne. In much the same way that his cast iron Brummie accent and demeanour have remained unchanged despite decades in Los Angeles, so his music remains in a late 20th century interzone – its real concerns being the songwriting of the Sixties and the huge, glossy production values of the Seventies and Eighties.

And so it is here. The songs and vocal delivery are full of shameless nods to his sometime fellow Travelling Wilburys Bob Dylan (“Ain't it a Drag”) and Roy Orbison (“I'm Leaving You”), as well as to Paul McCartney (almost all the other songs, as is standard for Lynne). The production, also standard, sounds like a million dollars. It's absolutely sparkling with detail and delight in the placement of the thickly layered sounds, so every hi-hat and every harmonic of every 12-string guitar part positively glitters from its allotted spot.

On paper, it's really just skilled pastiche for dads to stick on while they bore you about their “separates system”. But in the delivery, somehow, it becomes far more than the sum of its parts. Like Lynne himself, it radiates not only workmanlike skill, but absolute, unswerving love for its inspiration and processes, and no small amount of charm to boot. The lyrics are simple and direct, rooted in Tin Pan Alley pop, only a whisker away from moon-spoon-june homilies: at root they say little more than “Ooh, my ex is mean” or “I feel nostalgic” or “Cheer up, babe”, but with the guileless delivery they touch on universals – as pop should. This record is certainly not going to change the world in this decade or any other, but something about this timeless simplicity is delightfully reassuring.

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