For a man who didn’t know the alphabet until the age of 28 (apocryphally – it was probably 26), Ryder’s lyrical dexterity is remarkable. He only discovered that he had ADHD and dyslexia at the age of 40, having been addicted to heroin for 20 years (“I felt like I had me underpants on back to front. Drugs made me feel normal”).
Who’d have thought the leader of the Happy Mondays and Black Grape would have longevity? From scourge of The Sun to celebrity TV fodder, his national treasure status is as pleasing as it is unlikely and the loveable rogue still has the magic touch – and some ambition. The 11 tracks here cross multiple musical styles – some more successfully than others – it’s certainly not samey. Bouncy single “Mumbo Jumbo” is followed by the sublime “Close the Dam”, originally released in 2015 and as groovetastic as ever. Lord knows why it wasn’t a huge success. Maybe this time.
The catchy “Don’t Marry Pop Star’s Daughters” references his failed marriage to Donovan’s offspring and kicks off with the line “didn’t arrive in this world with a set of instructions, just a brain that barely functions”. “I Can Stop Anytime” has a feel of The Streets, and ponders the cliché of addiction “it’s not a big deal, it’s not a big problem – I can stop any time”. “Electric Scales” flirts with rock, “Straighten Me Up” is poppy, dancey and really very Mondays-esque, “Monster” is sing-along sugar and spice. Not that sort.
Finishing strongly with the funky “Clubbing Rabbits (to Death)”, there’s a strong sense that Shaun W Ryder is at the top of his game and having a bloody good time. This time without the pills and bellyache. Salford’s finest, we salute you!