By DAN MACINTOSH
Back when The Waterboys started out in 1983, the band was led by the young, passionate, and poetic Mike Scott. That Scott sang its songs with raw, unbridled emotion. However, Scott is now in his early 60s, and while he’s still a poetic writer, his voice has taken on the tone of an elder’s wisdom. It’s different, yet no less effective. The group has just released its fourteenth studio album, Good Luck, Seeker, a project containing plenty of sonic variety and lyrical intrigue.
Some of this music is quite unlike anything we’ve heard from The Waterboys before. “The Golden Work,” for example, is a funky, ’70s throwback jam, featuring Scott’s vocal studio-augmented with Auto-Tune, or something like it. It’s followed by the album’s best song, “My Wanderings in the Weary Land,” built around a spoken lyric where Scott describes a spiritual journey. After detailing a dream-like scenario, the band goes into an extended instrumental jam, which – at nearly seven minutes – becomes a track the listener never wants to end.
The album is sometimes eclectic to the extreme. One called “Soul Singer” praises old school soul artists over an appropriately soulful arrangement, complete with a funky horn section. The traditional “Low Down in the Broom” is bathed in relatively straight forward traditional instrumentation. “Dennis Hopper,” which begins with a motorcycle sound effect, draws some of its vocal cadence from hip-hop, as Scott rhymes his way through singing the praises of that iconic actor.
For the album’s title track, Scott returns to his wise sage vocal tone. The listener can almost picture a troll-like figure, with long white hair and beard, dispelling these wise words to a young, spiritual/philosophical seeker. While Scott was once that thirsty searcher of knowledge, over the years these roles have reversed, and he’s become the wisdom dispenser. Such is how – hopefully — humans evolve over time.
Although this new album includes elements reminiscent of older albums, like This Is the Sea and A Pagan Place, lovers of those vintage, ’80s albums, won’t likely appreciate all of Good Luck, Seeker. There’s just too much stylistic variance going on for many, one assumes. The more adventurous listener will appreciate this new effort because it is oftentimes one wild, surprise-filled ride. The fact that Mike Scott is still musically restless – perhaps more restless than many in his core audience – is heartening. However, if you expect The Waterboys to remain the way they sounded back in, say, 1985, well, good luck, listener.