I only fell in love with three older men in the 1990s, and two of them have had babies in the last month.
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s I might be smitten by any Tom, Dick and Harry who’d been on Top of the Pops that week. Any Paul, Bruce and Rick with their Rickenbackers and skinny ties. Any Joe, Mick and Paul with their cap-sleeve T-shirts and Mohawks, any Robert, Lol and Simon with their eyeliner and sticky-up hair, any David, Mick and Steve with their astonishing beauty and meandering basslines. I even had a last-fling dirty thing going on with those hard-faced Manchester boys Ian, John, Mani and Reni, in the final days before I got married and sobered up.
By the Nineties I’d seen through all that and it was only Neil, Justin and John. And it’s Neil and Justin whose latest spawn I’ve been listening to this month.
Crowded House and Del Amitri; back then you’d struggle to find anything in the six-CD autochanger of my powder blue Alfa Romeo 156 other than the five albums those two produced over those ten years, except for the three that came from my third lover, John McRae of Cake, who knocked out triplets of his own at the time but hasn’t reproduced much since.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I heard from Justin’s band and over 10 since I heard from Neil’s, so having the two of them turn up on the doorstep with mewling, puking offspring within 10 days of each other has been a bitter-sweet exercise in joy and fear. Fear, because it’s so much easier to tarnish a legacy than enhance it. Memories evaporate the moment new light shines on them; that’s why great stars fade fast. Die before you disappoint, leave it before you lose it. What if everything I knew and loved about those two was wiped out by their late-in-life attempts to lure me back?
I want to say my fear were unfounded. I had sort of prepared myself for the worst. How could they know what I wanted from them when I didn’t know it myself? I’d worked out I didn’t want them to do exactly what they did back then, because I’m mid fucking ‘50s now, and I don’t stand legs-akimbo in the kitchen playing air-SG to Here And Now, or dance like a loon on a midsummer lawn to Distant Sun. I don’t expect that from them, they who have have grown old too.
So when Neil Finn drafts his two sons into the band – they’re not distant ones, apparently – and puts out a suite of songs that sound a little bit but not much like he and Nick Seymour used to, and it’s all a bit meh, I’m happy for them. He doesn’t have to impress me. He’s been in Fleetwood Mac, for goodness sake. He wrote Don’t Dream It’s Over. Dreamers are Waiting is not really my thing, but that’s okay. My wife eats butter with a spoon straight from the tub, and I still love her.
But Justin, he gets me. Del Amitri’s Fatal Mistakes kicks off with two songs that absolutely nail that band/fan thing. Can’t Go Back acknowledges 19 years of waiting, of wondering if there was more to come. This thing between us, he says, that we knew was something special, well it seems it still is.
But next up – and please don’t stop there, it’s an excellent album of proper songs, proper melodies and harmonies and that kind of hanging-back pace that you might interpret as plodding if you didn’t know how wrong you’d be – is All Hail Blind Love.
People toast our survival /As if slogging on Is living out the dream, he says, before adding a rueful We would have never kept going If the going wasn’t so damned rough. Well that’s it, isn’t it? That’s why we hold on from our side too, in the hope that one day, while flicking through the digital equivalent of the racks in our local record shop, we’ll find an album by our favourite band that we had somehow overlooked. All the ingredients we love, stirred differently perhaps but we’d welcome that. Imagine how great that would be, after all these years, to find a flicker, or even a fire, from an old flame.
One is embers and the other’s an inferno, but I’ll take that. All Hail Blind Love.