Release Date: Mar 25, 2013
Record label: AED Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, British Trad Rock
At the risk of sounding callous, there was perhaps a tendency to make allowances for Collins’ previous two albums, fans and critics alike subconsciously judging the records’ merits in relationship to his ongoing recovery from well-documented brain haemorrhages. But while 2007’s Home Again and 2010’s Losing Sleep were both solid but occasionally patchy affairs, Understated is an absolute triumph, matching any of the high-water marks of his past career. From the soulful mariachi blast of the opening Dilemma to the tender acoustic cover of Rod McKuen’s Love’s Been Good To Me, which closes the album, Collins draws deep from his wells of confident hooks, savvy pop sensibilities and lyrical wit.
When an artist releases an album after undergoing an affecting personal tragedy, it becomes all too easy for the reviewer to over-contextualize the record itself and condescend to the afflicted singer with sympathy points-out-of-ten. In truth, though, the best albums reflect their circumstances—look at Low or Electro-Shock Blues—rather than exist in a vacuum. As such, Understated, Edwyn Collins' third album since his double brain hemorrhage in 2005, is arguably his best yet.
After his horrifying brain haemorrhage in 2005, it looked unlikely Edwyn Collins would record again - to do so has been a momentous achievement. Now, eight years on and three records later, Collins has never seemed so humbled, satisfied and resilient as on latest album Understated. No longer flanked by guest musicians as on 2010’s Losing Sleep (Johnny Marr, Ryan Jarman, Alex Kapranos et al), Understated is an intensely personal record in which Collins sings candidly about his past and future - his near death experience and triumphant return.
The phrase ‘life-changing’ is an overused one, but it’s a horribly appropriate one for what happened to Edwyn Collins in 2005. Aged only 45, the former singer of ’80s indie pop heroes Orange Juice suffered two cerebral hemorrhages, leaving him with a condition known as aphasia, and unable to read, write, use the right side of his body or speak anything other than a couple of stock phrases. Being able to live a reasonably normal life after all that would be a laudable enough aim, but five years later, Collins released Losing Sleep, his seventh solo album.
Edwyn Collins' 2013 album Understated is another milepost in his recovery from the cerebral hemorrhage he suffered in 2005 that almost took his life, and did take away almost all of his language. More than that, it's a great record that stands with his best work from the past. Unlike his 2010 effort Losing Sleep, which was filled with friends and guests helping out, this time out Collins takes all the lead vocal chores himself, and he and co-producer Seb Lewsley rely on a core band that includes Little Barrie's Barrie Cadogan on guitar and former Sex Pistol Paul Cook on drums.
Edwyn Collins understandably addresses his continuing struggle to recover from the two brain haemorrhages he suffered in 2005. As he puts it on the slinky, horn-augmented Baby Jean, "I've got to find a way to understand the world." He is still unable to play guitar properly, and his taped ideas for songs were fleshed out by other musicians. Down the Line – a confession of how the illness meant "I wasn't there to comfort you" – is heartbreaking, while the lovely It's a Reason similarly tells how the haemorrhages left him "back to front, inside-out".
Review Summary: He may be understated, but he must never be underestimatedIt may seem somewhat trite to mention the double cerebral haemorrhage Collins suffered in February 2005 in every review or article concerning him. Alas, it is unavoidable; such a debilitating incident can denote a ‘Year Zero’ in one’s life. For fans and other music aficionados, it denotes a strong but unavoidable, not to mention unwelcome, benchmark in a person’s life and their career.We may never know whether or not Mr.
Something of a double-edged sword, so-called national treasure status. Are people interested in your creative output or just… well, your continuing existence? Edwyn Collins, while not quite Shirley Bassey, is arguably a pop national treasure, more so since a near-fatal brain haemorrhage eight years ago. This is the 53-year-old’s second post-recovery album, and lyrics like “I’m so happy to be alive” (‘Forsooth’) are sobering in their humility.
Last time we heard from Edwyn Collins, on 2010's Losing Sleep, he was surrounded by an auspicious array of accompanying musicians. Johnny Marr, Roddy Frame, and Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy from Franz Ferdinand were among the guests who provided the musical assistance Collins needed during his ongoing recovery from the cerebral hemorrhages he suffered in 2005. His condition means he still requires the help of others in fleshing out his songwriting, but Understated plays out like a crucial step toward finding his muse again.
Understated is the third album to be released since Edwyn Collins suffered a double brain haemorrhage in 2005. That, of course, is an overwhelming achievement in itself. For the resulting record to reach the heights that Understated does, however, is a feat that is nothing short of incredible. As Collins continues down a long road of rehabilitation, he is, as yet, physically unable to contribute fully to his music's instrumentation, and so he becomes the auteur and voice of Understated.
Knockout stuff that suggests Collins’ knack for melody remains intact. Chris Parkin 2013 As incredulous as it might sound after one play of his latest album, Edwyn Collins still describes the music he’s made since his two brain haemorrhages in 2005 as works in progress. Even the keenest fan of Collins and Orange Juice will struggle for ways in which the irrepressible Scot might improve this eighth solo album.
As ‘Dilemma’, the opening track of Edwyn Collins’ ‘Understated’ kicks in, you can’t help but smile. Not only for the fact that it’s a prime, soul-tinged romp with its galloping drums, forceful swagger and parping horns, but because it’s totally at odds with its parent record’s title.Then again, if anyone deserves to be on the balls of their feet with their chest puffed out in unadulterated, life-affirming confidence it’s Collins. Whereas 2011’s ‘Losing Sleep’ saw him share the spotlight with the likes of Alex Kapranos, Ryan Jarman and The Drums’ Jonathan Pierce, ‘Understated’ rightly sees the attention focussed back on the man himself.
It’s impossible to write about Edwyn Collins objectively anymore. Edwyn’s personal achievements since the debilitating stroke he suffered in 2005 have all but overshadowed his musical output since, yet there’s no way to talk about his new material without referencing his health problems which, as Best Fit’s unofficial Collins correspondent, makes writing articles like this a pain in the ass. Home Again, recorded before his illness, will always be seen as a spookily prescient signpost to a more simplistic approach, while 2010?s Losing Sleep saw pals like Johnny Marr and Alex Kapranos popping up for collaborations.