At one point Joe McAlinden made a fair bit of noise. His Superstar was signed to Creation Records and was known for its sun-kissed power pop. His also lent his talents to Groovy Little Numbers, Boy Hairdressers, BMX Bandit, Edwyn Collins, Big Star, Alex Chilton and Matthew Sweet, among others. He then left the music business and, among other things, became a restaurateur. But apparently an accomplished musician and son of a music teacher just can't quit for good, and he has resumed blessing us with the fruits of his songwriting skills, albeit in a quieter vein. His 2012 release, Bleached Highlights, earned deep praise in the UK. In my view, Rest and Be Thankful, manages to succeed in the formidable task of topping the previous album. Recorded in home territory in Argyll, western Scotland, in a fisherman's hut on the shores of Lock Fyne with the members of his live band -- Stuart Kidd, Eric Lindsay, Marco Rea, James Walbourne, and Paul Cook, and with finishing studio touches from Edwyn Collins himself, the album is peaceful, emotional and completely accessible.
Rest and Be Thankful succeeds for a myriad of reasons. The songwriting is mature without looking backward, and intimate without being uncomfortably confessional. The arrangements are lush without being fussy. And one cannot overlook the value of timing. It is late June and summer is upon us. What better time for self-described 'pastoral pop' with weathered vocals, clever guitar lines and hooks at every turn? Open the sun roof and head for the coast with your Ray Bans in place and Linden providing the perfect soundtrack. But it seems to me that the pop perfection on the surface is just one part of the genius here. Just as a good chef triumphs when he or she takes quality ingredients and combines them in complimentary fashion, with certain elements to the fore and the others evident but in support, McAlinden's songwriting deserves the songwriting equivalent of top Michelin Stars. Each song is a dish, plated to perfection, with no element too dominant, no sadness or regret offered without a sunny hook or encouraging melody.
For my tastes, the best songs are "Window Pane", "Rest and Be Thankful", "Short Worm", and "Broken Glass". By the way, the title of the album is taken from words inscribed on a stone at a rest stop at the end of a steep climb out of Glen Coe in Western Scotland. The view from the spot is replicated in the album's artwork.
Rest and Be Thankful is out now on vinyl, CD and as a digital download via Slumberland Records in North America and AED Records in the UK.
Slumberland Records page for album