It may have escaped your notice in this competitive age of downloads and streaming, but Mark Nevin has quietly been amassing a considerable canon of solo material.
Best known for his work with Fairground Attraction and Morrissey, My Unfashionable Opinion is his fifth solo album.
While, by his own admission, his first two efforts were “breathtaking commercial failures,” he’s clearly become much more comfortable as a frontman.
There’s a strong sense with this album of an artist throwing off the shackles and settling scores with all the naysayers who said he couldn’t make it on his own.
Though many of the song are autobiographical, Nevin manages to find a universal message in the deeply personal – the mark of a master songwriter and storyteller.
What stands out is the sharpness and wit of the lyrics – the title track being a prime example.
Rhyming university with Phd and similarity shows his playfulness and a keen poetic ear.
The song’s message is at the heart of the whole album, it’s about being true to yourself and having the courage not to follow the herd – being prepared to go it alone.
It’s a thread running through all the strongest tracks on the record, from Punching Above My Weight, to the catchy rockabilly of Curly Wurly Boy.
In a revealing interview with EP last month, Nevin said his experience as a psychotherapist had shown him how people “stop themselves” from achieving their potential.
Songs like “Punching…” are about that struggle, overcoming the barriers of doubt and negativity to have the faith to achieve your potential.
Similarly, Curly Wurly Boy humorously takes to task the lazy careers officers, who tried to dissuade him from a musical career in favour of a safe job at the local Cadbury factory.
Don’t let anyone stop you living your dream, no matter what the odds, is the clear message of the song,
With it’s lovely lilting, finger-style guitar, Uncertainty further develops his argument, it’s all about rejecting the easy option and making a leap into the unknown “the magic is in the mystery” .
Brass accompaniment from Kick Horns is to the fore on Sing Anyway, which is kind of a companion piece to REM‘s Everybody Hurts or Morrissey’s Do your Best and Don’t Worry.
No matter what life throws at you, just keep singing is the simple lesson, but the central message is there again in the last line: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t”.
There’s more sparkling guitar on the bucolic Laurie Lee-referencing Only Dreamers (Live The Dream), which shows Nevin really giving full flight to his voice.
It might just be me, but when he really opens up, as he does here and on songwriter’s confessional The Stars Align, Nevin sounds a lot like Canadian troubadour Ron Sexsmith, which is no bad thing at all.
Elsewhere, there’s a hymn to all the great, and maybe not so great, lost tunes on Forgotify and Dr Frankenstein makes an appearance in Don’t Be My Echo, which strongly suggests that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery.
If there are any criticisms, it’s that occasionally the music – in contrast to the album’s abiding leitmotif of getting out of your comfort zone – is just a tad too safe and serene.
Pruning a couple of the slighter pieces may have also made for a stronger 10-track LP than the dozen available here.
But these are minor quibbles. My Unfashionable Opinion is a highly intelligent, beautifully played and hugely enjoyable album.
Curly Wurly’s loss is unquestionably music’s gain.
- Co-produced by Mark Nevin and former Fairground Attraction bandmate Simon Edwards, My Unfashionable Opinion is out now on Raresong Recordings
- For more information about Mark Nevin visit his website here