Ian Broudie has been Big In Japan.
He’s also worked with Bill Drummond, Holly Johnson, Clive Longer, David Balfe, Echo & The Bunnymen, Terry Hall, The Primitives, Sleeper, Republica, The Coral, The Zutons, and God knows who else.
As the Lightning Seeds he has presided over Silver, Gold and Platinum selling albums, top ten hit singles, and arguably the greatest football song ever recorded.
What I’m trying to tell you is that Broudie is as deserving of the title of “genius” as any of the other people, most of whom are much less deserving, who regularly have it attached to their name. A masterful songwriter, a lyricist of real craft, music that works as the score for a compilation for the greatest goals ever scored, just as well as it soundtracks every broken heart, and tear soaked moment, in your life.
In a better world than this one his name would be one of the first on the lips of anyone when asked the question, “Who is the greatest songwriter this miserable little island has produced since…well, ever?”
I can hear you.
“Here he goes again, making grand claims for something.”
In a way you are right.
Throwing labels like “genius” and “greatest” around with gay abandon is a fools game. But, and this is crucial, I’m a fool.
In 1994 I was in my second year at university.
A nobody in a nowhere town.
I had taken a room in the home of my then girlfriend's parents house. She was studying at a real university, in a real town, and was having the time of her life.
I was dying.
I would wake up in the morning and wait for her dad to leave for work, and her mum to do whatever she did during the day. When I was sure the house was empty, I would put my copy of “The Life Of Riley'' into the CD player in my bedroom, and set it to repeat. Then I would grab an indoor football that I had acquired and head into the hall. As the music played, I would start to play. Knocking passes along the hall, scoring goals, dribbling past imaginary defenders, twisting this way and that. Over and over that song played, and I never once got bored of it. I was losing myself in a fantasy, escaping the awfulness of my existence. I couldn’t do that to my The Smiths records, nothing by any of the Britpop gaggle could do the same thing, provide the same lift, wipe away the real world. Only The Lightning Seeds, and only “The Life Of Riley”.
The alternative to that madness was to stay in bed.
I wish I was making this up.
I wish I had a more believable story, or no story at all.
But I don’t, I only have a lonely boy, desperately trying to get out of his own head. So there.
Now, almost thirty years after that, and more than a decade after the last album from the Lightning Seeds (2009’s “Four Winds”), Broudie has returned. Like me, maybe like you, he has left youth behind him. Or maybe youth has left us behind? Except, the sweetness, the joy, the hope, and the possibilities of your teens, your twenties, and maybe even your thirties, haven’t abandoned him. Every track on “See You In The Stars” is cut through with heart, soul and love. This isn’t the sound of a man looking back, or a man weighed down by regrets, this is no fierce last gasp, no drowning, no gasping. Oh, sure there is yearning, moments of mournfulness, aching hearts, broken parts, but through it all he offers a sense of protection and possibility.
At every turn you hear an unmistakably “Broudian” melody, a flash of those ear worm melodies, the sort of songs that other, supposedly great “artists”, would give all their cigarettes and alcohol for. It all sounds so effortless for Broudie, maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise after all this time. He’s a master of his craft. It all sounds so timeless too, everything is clear, clean, and polished. Pop diamonds.
Perhaps the greatest source of delight on “See You In The Stars” lies in the fact that every song comes in at under three and a half minutes. No turgid, moribund, ten minute long “anthem”, the sort of songs that are not only fuelled by cocaine, but which can only be enjoyed, or endured, under the influence of the same. Real pop songs say what needs to be said, say it with style, and then disappear…like shooting stars, they burn bright, and you never forget them.
When Broudie first appeared as part of whatever the Hell Big In Japan were, he couldn’t have imagined that he would still be making music 45 years later…and if he did, he definitely couldn’t have imagined that he would be releasing his best ever music after that number of years had passed. But that is exactly what has happened, “See You In The Stars” has arrived late in the year, late in the career of Broudie himself, but it’s a contender for album of the year…and is his best collection of songs, ever.