The Waterboys: Where the Action Is (Cooking Vinyl) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019  

The Waterboys

Where the Action Is

Cooking Vinyl

Jun 25, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Propagator of "The Big Music," Mike Scott, has been the leader of influential folk/rock/punk/Pagan/everything else collective The Waterboys since around 1983. In that time there have been solid gold albums like 1985's This Is the Sea and 1988s Fisherman's Blues as well as recent, acclaimed efforts like the experimental double Out of All This Blue from 2017.

On Where the Action Is, Scott mostly eschews the (admittedly interesting) hip-hop beat dabbling of Out of All This Blue and constructs a high quality rock 'n' folk record of the sort that bands like The War on Drugs and Band of Horses seem intent on failing to make despite their heavy appropriation of the sonic palettes of both Scott's and Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler.

What Scott has is an innate knack for making records that sound like they've been lived in; like they're a part of his life and yours; like they could have been made at any point since about 1970; universal and personal, like the best old-school rock.

"London Mick" is a slice of rough and ready love portioned out to former Clash man Mick Jones (nice to hear in a world where only Strummer ever gets a nod), while "In My Time on Earth" is a lyrical, gentle tale which notes "The truth's been too long out of style" with a stadium chorus that could be a hit for, say, Liam Gallagher. "Right Side of Heartbreak (Wrong Side of Love)" throws up some sweet funk and big-band grandiosity along with a low-key hook that's hard to shake off. The latter portion of the album mixes things up somewhat"Take Me There I Will Follow You" stumbles ambitiously into euro-electronica, Scott rapping semi-convincingly across what sounds like a half-considered novelty track. Not his finest moment.

Reassuringly, "And There's Love" conjures a strange, minimal Scott Walker vibe and is quite, quite brilliant while "Then She Made the Lasses-O" (taken from the traditional song) appropriates a Casio beat and smoothes it into a Celtic delight that's as baffling as it is beautiful. These late moments of stylistic departure really work here; unusual as they are, they fit together with the rest of the album thematically and help lead us into closing epic "Piper At the Gates of Dawn," a piano-led spoken word epic (with words lifted from the great Kenneth Grahame) that's, well, absolutely fucking great.

This is one of the finer works in Scott's lengthy canon, a triumph of atmospheric, poetic, purposely kaleidoscopic songcraft from an often-overlooked master. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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