TERRY GROSS, host:
Edwyn Collins was the leader of the 1980s post-punk band Orange Juice. In 2005, at age 45, the Scottish singer, guitarist and songwriter suffered two cerebral hemorrhages and he doubted he'd make music again. But now he's back with "Losing Sleep," his seventh solo album.
Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(Soundbite of song, "Losing Sleep")
Mr. EDWYN COLLINS (Musician): (Singing) I'm losing sleep, I'm losing dignity. Everything I own is right in front of me. And it's getting me down, I'm losing sleep. And it's getting me down, I'm losing sleep.
I'm holding on...
KEN TUCKER: I'm losing sleep, I'm losing dignity, Edwyn Collins sings on the title song of his new album. Powered by soul-music rhythms and sung in a tough, terse tone, Collins sounds impatient, eager to get on with his life. The music on this album is the work of a man on a mission.
(Soundbite of song, "Come Tomorrow, Come Today")
Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) I ain't lying, no more tears. It's good to be here, the best of my years. Through the good times and the bad, never faltered, I've faced all my fears.
That awkward sense of being alive. That awkward feeling deep inside.
Come tomorrow, come today. I ain't lying, no more tears. Come tomorrow, come today. I ain't lying, no more tears. No more tears.
TUCKER: If the PR angle for this album "Losing Sleep" is Collins' near-miraculous recovery from two strokes that ought to have left him unable to make music, Collins hasn't approached it as a comeback. No more tears, he admonishes on the song I just played, "Come Tomorrow, Come Today." It features a strong yet delicate guitar line by Johnny Marr from The Smiths and The Cribs. But Collins and Marr don't use the occasion for nostalgia for the '80s. Another member of The Cribs, Ryan Jarman, helps Collins achieve an almost angry urgency on the song "I Still Believe in You."
(Soundbite of song, "I Still Believe in You")
Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) I'm running through the backwoods. I'm running through the fields. When I'm alone I miss you. Back at my house, I don't, yet.
I still believe in you. I still believe in you. I still believe in you. Maybe you want me too. My love.
TUCKER: Occasionally on this album, Collins will mock his own youthful arrogance as an obstreperous would-be hit-maker leading the band Orange Juice. On the song called "Over the Hill," Collins begins with a pun in the phrase, at 21, I had a grand conceit, and then he divulges what that conceit was -clarity, simplicity, he insists. These qualities are more in evidence here than they ever were in Orange Juice's more pulpy music, and Collins' sound is the better for his middle-aged clarity and simplicity.
(Soundbite of song, "Over the Hill")
Mr. COLLINS: (Singing) Looking back where I used to be, reckless youth, that's the truth. At 21 I had a grand conceit, clarity, simplicity. In my world of darkness nothing's changed. In all my confusion it's still the same.
Some day, out there, when I'm older. When I'm wiser, when I'm over the hill...
TUCKER: Even when he lets his rasp become soft and low, Edwyn Collins doesn't let it lapse into sentimentality. There's certainly a strong theme of gratefulness running through this album, but his vocals and his melodies deny any plea for sympathy. It's an occasion for questioning. What is my role, he asks on a song of the same name. The implied word that's left out is now - what is my role now, having lived to make this music?
He answers that question by bearing down as hard as he can on every syllable, giving every phrase vehemence. His role is to make the best, most ferocious and unsparing music of which he's still capable.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "Losing Sleep" by Edwyn Collins.
I'm Terry Gross.