New awakening

Five years af­ter a stroke, ex-front­man of Orange Juice Ed­wyn Collins has a new al­bum out.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By Tim Bur­rows Los­ingSleep

Ed­wyn Collins has a great honk­ing laugh – like a cross be­tween an ec­static seal and an un­ruly bi­cy­cle horn. Luck­ily, Collins, 51, has plenty to laugh about. Mirac­u­lously, he is about to em­bark on a Euro­pean tour, five years af­ter a stroke led to two brain haem­or­rhages that nearly killed him and left him in hos­pi­tal for six months. In Septem­ber, he re­leased his sev­enth solo al­bum, Los­ing Sleep, his first col­lec­tion of new songs since the or­deal.

The record is a joy­ful ride, his most pop­sound­ing in over a decade. He at­tributes the di­rect­ness of his new ma­te­rial to his strug­gle with lan­guage, due to dys­pha­sia, a prod­uct of his stroke.

“Be­fore my stroke, on my last al­bum Home Again, I was clever­clever,” he ex­plains, sit­ting on a sofa in the stu­dio that he shares with Seb Lewsley, his best friend and pro­ducer. “now my songs are di­rect and clear enough to fo­cus on what the strug­gle of life is about. I can get to the root of things.”

It plugs straight back into the rich vein of warm, slightly wob­bly pop and fresh, soul­ful sen­si­bil­ity which has been his trade­mark since the group that he made his name with, Orange Juice, re­leased its first sin­gle, Fall­ing And Laugh­ing, in 1980.

The sub­ject of a soon­to­be­re­leased ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive box set, Orange Juice were at the van­guard of bands who sprang out of post­punk Glas­gow. They came armed with an en­cy­clopaedic knowl­edge of pop – mix­ing up the jan­gling gui­tars of the Byrds, the disco of Chic and the bite of punk – as well as an ar­ray of sec­ond­hand over­coats and, most im­por­tantly, bag­fuls of wit. yet, aside from the squelch­ing disco hit Rip It Up, which reached no.8 in 1984, Orange Juice never quite scaled the heights of im­i­ta­tors like Hair­cut 100, who took the Orange Juice tem­plate of gui­tars, funk beats and sweaters and ran with it.

Though Collins later won some solo recog­ni­tion with the global 1994 smash A Girl Like You, pop suc­cess eluded Orange Juice and they were dropped by Poly­dor in 1984 af­ter they failed to re­peat their fleet­ing suc­cess, lead­ing to the band split­ting. But for Collins, their lack of suc­cess has turned out to be a bless­ing.

”I sup­pose oth­er­wise you would be like ABC are now, on tour with that Here & Now show,” laughs Grace Maxwell, his wife, a fel­low south­ern Scot and his man­ager for nearly three decades.

“Stop it, Grace. Martin Fry is my good friend,” replies Ed­wyn, in a moment of quick­fire ban­ter that has be­come the pair’s trade­mark fol­low­ing his stroke, since which his wife has been an ever­present fig­ure by his side.

Collins in­stead be­came a fig­ure­head for the dIy un­der­ground mu­sic scene, a fact that was made clear to him when, be­fore his stroke, he was con­fronted by three men in north London. “you’re that Ed­wyn Collins, aren’t you?” one said in a broad Manch­ester ac­cent. “you in­vented in­die.”

If he is an in­die fig­ure­head, he is a re­luc­tant one. As the 1980s pro­gressed, Collins in­creas­ingly dis­tanced him­self from the many fey in­die bands who revered Orange Juice. “when Ed­wyn started, in­die just meant his records had been in­de­pen­dently dis­trib­uted, with no ma­jors in­volved, ev­ery­thing on the cheap,” says Maxwell. “By the mid­1980s, it had be­come a genre, with an af­fected twee­ness about it that we hated.”

while Orange Juice have en­joyed a resur­gence among a gen­er­a­tion of vin­tage­clothed vinyl com­pletists, Collins is quick to quell the band’s im­por­tance, to him at least. “OJ means a lot to me, but it is in the past. I’ve got to look to the fu­ture. Back then, I was ex­per­i­ment­ing. we weren’t quite ready.”

Many of his devo­tees might dis­agree, such as the young mu­si­cians who turn up on his lat­est al­bum, in­clud­ing the Cribs’ Ryan Jar­man, Franz Fer­di­nand’s Alex Kapra­nos and Brook­lyn band The drums, who co­wrote the stun­ning In Your Eyes, a song filled with a twin sense of loss and hope.

It came about af­ter Ed­wyn and Grace’s son wil­liam met the band at a gig. “Orange Juice made these per­fect pop songs,” ex­plains drums front­man Jonathan Pierce, who sings with Collins on the track. “They feel so frag­ile, like they could fall apart at any time. There is some­thing re­ally hu­man about that.”

Collins is still quite ob­vi­ously im­paired. Paral­ysed on his right side, he no longer plays the gui­tar, but he has, in­cred­i­bly, re­trained him­self to be able draw with his left hand – the birds on the cover of Los­ing Sleep were all sketched dur­ing his re­cov­ery. Each month sees a new mile­stone reached.

The pre­vi­ous week­end was the first time he had been left overnight at home in his house in over five years as Grace trav­elled to her home­town in north La­nark­shire to give a read­ing of her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Fall­ing And Laugh­ing (named af­ter Orange Juice’s first sin­gle), which charts Ed­wyn’s re­cov­ery.

Above all else, Los­ing Sleep is a tes­ta­ment to the heal­ing qual­i­ties of mu­sic, and its pro­found mys­tery. Two days be­fore he was due to leave hos­pi­tal in 2005, the only phrases he could say were “yes”, “no”, “Grace Maxwell” and “the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less”, which he re­peated like a mantra as part of his ther­apy.

Then, from nowhere, sprang a melody and lyrics – a song. That song, the acous­tic bal­lad I’m Search­ing For The Truth, closes the al­bum. “Some sweet day, we’ll get there in the end,” Collins sings in a high­pitched vari­ant of his fa­mil­iar, trem­bling croon. To­day, you might sug­gest that he al­ready has. – © The daily Tele­graph UK 2010 n Ed­wyn Collins’ Love Da Mu­sic.

is re­leased by

True sur­vivor: If Ed­wyn Collins is an in­die fig­ure­head, he is a re­luc­tant one.

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