Maybe it’s just because they come from Glasgow, released their 1983 45 debut on an indie label and have an uncommon name that del Amitri has always been expected to be something more commendable than inconsistent mainstream popsters. The first album, nicely produced by Hugh Jones, introduces a harmlessly enthusiastic folk-country-rock group, politely bubbling with appealing tunes and not a lot on their minds. Bassist Justin Currie’s accent is the only sign of unpolished reality in this smooth effort to please.
With a different second guitarist (Michael Slaven) in the lineup and a new producer (Mark Freegard) behind the board, Waking Hours has a stronger rock presence but not much more personality than the debut. A few of the songs (notably “When I Want You” and “Kiss This Thing Goodbye”) have solid content and catchy choruses, but a disconcerting resemblance to the stolid ordinariness of Dire Straits (minus the stellar fretwork) leaves the album a faint pleasure.
The first del Amitri record to stake a personality claim, Change Everything is an unhappy collection of infidelity and breakup songs set to a rocking pop-soul blend sparkling with bits of ’70s raunch and country. Featuring an overhauled five-piece lineup (only Currie and founding guitarist Iain Harvie remain from the previous record’s quartet) and produced by Gil Norton, the songs point fingers all over the place, including inward (“Be My Downfall,” “Just Like a Man”); the burned band backs up all the shame and anger with surging musical conviction. When Currie reaches for a shimmery falsetto to punctuate the line “I wanna die” in “Just Like a Man,” he truly sounds like a man on an emotional ledge. Just to spread the misery around, the acoustic “The First Rule of Love” and the Stonesy “The Ones That You Love Lead You Nowhere” bemoan romance in general.
Snorting out of Twisted‘s gate like a hopping mad the The, del Amitri adds honking guest harmonica and charging slide-guitar power to Currie’s quixotically angry distorted-vocal refusal to become “Food for Songs” and follows it with the similarly arranged “Start With Me,” upping the self-interest by praising a desire to save the world and then asking, “Is it such a hateful crime to start with me?” The album’s abrupt third-song shift into wimpy semi-acoustic balladry (“Here & Now”) dilutes its mighty opening, and the remainder — with few exceptions (“Being Somebody Else”) a bland plate of restrained pop mush that could be Steve Miller or Air Supply for all it matters — washes the memory away.