The fact that Edwyn Collins is alive is astounding. The fact that he can speak? Amazing. The fact that he can sing and release an album? Purely miraculous. In 2005, the Scottish-born singer and former member of the ’80s band Orange Juice suffered two separate brain hemorrhages. The hemorrhages left him with difficulties in speaking, but by listening to his latest effort, Losing Sleep, one would never know it.
Collins’ newest album is chock full of colorful pop offerings, introspective lyrics, and a nice mixture of emotion and passion strewn throughout the tracks. The songs range from subjects pertaining to fear to infuriation to the feel-good spirit of life itself, with the bulk of these subjects most likely fueled by what he’s gone through in the past six years. Collins gets a lot of help throughout the cuts as well, with Nick McCarthy and Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand lending a hand on keyboards, guitars, and vocals, as well as Johnny Marr with the bass work.
The album itself has its share of straight ahead rockers, like the fuzzy but punchy “What’s My Role,” while shades of Lou Reed creep in and around the darkened “I Still Believe In You,” a multi-dimensional endeavor that utilizes Collins’ wavering vocal style amidst a warbling instrumental background. The title track, “Losing Sleep,” is a glistening pop contribution, with Collins sounding sharp and poignant in his delivery.
Lyrically, Collins is all over the map when it comes to expressing a prismatic display of feelings. But his words aren’t so overt or blatant that his songs become cries for help or pity. Instead, the lyrics faintly graze topics like loneliness, trepidation, disparity, elation, and wonderment, and they’re all wrapped up in tightly-crafted rock tunes. It’s evident that he’s expressing his scope of emotions in his music and in his lyrics, but he does so with a sort of attempt at concealing any desire for sympathy.
Some of the songs on Losing Sleep were in their early stages before his misfortune, while some came into fruition after he had recovered. The fact of the matter is that he has spread out his emotions so broadly within the album’s twelve tracks that no precise sentiment is pinpointed or appears to be too analytical, except for two of the albums most impassioned cuts, in which case the sentimentality works to his benefit.
“All My Days” is a touching ballad about the not-knowingness of life’s journey and the difficulty of accepting misfortunes and tribulations, while “Bored,” a staccato-ish, guitar-driven kicker with a message of perseverance, insistence, and determination in its words delivers a great balance of pop thrust and meaningful stanzas.
Losing Sleep comes off as a pretty solid album of well written, well played songs. Even without knowing about his recent hurdle in life, the music stands up well from song to song. Knowing what Collins went through just adds a little bit more reverence to some already attractive pop-rock.