Every now and then comes an album strong enough to enthrall the listener from start to finish. What Is Love For by erstwhile Del Amitri singer Justin Currie is such a record.
Though hit Del Amitri tunes such as "Nothing Ever Happens" evinced Currie's way with a perspicacious lyric, his solo debut is something else again: a mature, often touching work by an artist clearly compelled to exorcise some ghosts.
Its real coup is the way it manages to be engrossing and affecting on that most hackneyed of topics, amour. "I had this debate with a friend who never uses the word 'love' in his songs," Currie says, "but the first two things I wrote for this record were 'If I Ever Loved You' and 'Only Love', so I thought I'd go the whole hog and do almost a concept album, horrible as that sounds.
"Mostly, it's about being older but none the wiser. I thought it was important to be honest and autobiographical. Friends listened and said, 'You can't sing that, it'll make people wince!' I'm OK with that. It's supposed to get a reaction."
After Del Amitri were dropped by Universal in 2002, Currie, 42, recorded much of his latest album in a room full of vintage albums, novels and poetry books in his Glasgow home. It would be two years before he found a home for his self-financed labour of love, but he eventually secured a deal with the US label Rykodisc.
The album uses various amour-gone-wrong scenarios as jumping-off points. "Something In That Mess" dissects the long-term relationship that should have remained a one-night stand, while "Not So Sentimental Now" and "If I Ever Loved You" explore the heart's capacity to turn to stone for self-protection.
"I'm amazed at how cold I can be sometimes," Currie says. "If I'd written 'If I Ever Loved You' 10 years ago I'd have put a bit in saying, 'No, I actually really miss you', but I wanted the listener to intuit that I was either a cold, cold bastard or in complete denial."
Tonight, then touring to 28 March ( www.myspace.com/justincurrie); 'What Is Love For' is out on Rykodisc