It is difficult to believe now, some thirty years after its release, just what an impact this album was to have not only on the band’s career, but also the collective psyche of millions of people. Yes, millions, that is no exaggeration and the reason for that will become apparent shortly.
The Mechanics had got off to a stuttering start back in 1985 with their eponymous debut album but even then, the strength of the songs shone through giving them two top ten hits in America unto the bargain. Following up that somewhat unexpected success was always going to be a problem. What followed however, was to take everyone (including the band) totally by surprise.
Looking back (pun intended) at this album now, it is self evident that it is a product of its time although some of its subject matter still resonates even now. Nobody’s Perfect, certainly says a lot in today’s image obsessed culture. Without doubt though it is the album’s title track The Living Years which has established itself so firmly in our collective emotional register. A song of love, loss and regret this could have so easily become a cloyingly sentimental nonsense. However, in the hands of craftsmen such as Mike and B A Robertson, and delivered by an artist of the vocal calibre as Paul Carrack, this one was never going to be anything other than a hymn for those who can relate to its lyrical content (myself included) and hence the reference to millions, earlier. When released as the second single from the album, this catapulted the band to the forefront of rock stardom and deservedly so. It has had a tendency ever since to overshadow the rest of the album though which is where this reissue comes in handy.
Re-evaluation of an album, catalogue etc is always a useful thing to do. Not only does it give you a chance to revisit old favourites but also to rediscover some surprising new ones too and this album is packed with them. Seeing Is Believing for example, brilliantly evokes the murky world of politics and the confusion it can cause for us lesser mortals. Certainly this one has a resonance in the current world of Trump and Brexit!
Nobody Knows too, is a song which will have a deeper meaning for many. A superbly plaintive and regretful examination of the aftermath of a relationship gone wrong Poor Boy Down, despite its outward rock ‘n’roll stamp and vocal delivery by Paul Young at his very best has a serious message - disaffected youth and the consequences of its disaffection. People taken for granted will, eventually take you by surprise and one again, the lessons for today’s world are plain to see.
Blame opens Side Two (remember when albums had sides, folks?). Now, this is a track that I completely overlooked back when the album was initially released and yet a scant two years after it was penned, the world went insane again as the Gulf War was fought and more recently still, refought for questionable motives The lyrics to this one and its frenetic rhythms say it all. As good an anti war statement as I have ever heard and once again, delivered in sufficiently fiery form by the late Mr Young.
Don’t is a song I have never really got to grips with until now… From my perspective, this one sums up the Internet generation and the likes of Facebook and Twitter to perfection. The anonymity of it all, the fakery of “friends” whom you don’t even know (and in most cases probably never will either) is all summed up perfectly here.
Black And Blue on the other hand is about as subtle as a kick in the balls with a hobnail boot. The angst and the agony of a failed relationship.. Acerbic and acidic it os contrasted perfectly with the wistful and hopeful Beautiful Day while the album is brought to a close with Why Me? Another agonised look at the corruption of power and how eventually balance is restored.. Another song with frightening resonance in today’s screwed up world.
There you have it, and then not, as in addition to the studio album itself, you have added bonus of a live disc with six live cuts from the album alongside several other classic Mechanics live performances which only go to show exactly how good they were (and still are) as a live unit. Mechanics gigs, take it from me, are always joyful events and this disc captures some of those moments to perfection.
The album is housed in a superbly put together hardback book which, along with a whole gamut of photographs and memorabilia also has an informative text and brief biographies of the main protagonists on it.
Living Years is an apt title, this album is as relevant now as it was back in 1988 and this is a superb addition to any collection.
Mike & The Mechanics: Living Years Deluxe Anniversary Edition BMG CAT279DLP.