The Lilac Time – No Sad Songs (Album Review)

the ilac time - The Lilac Time - No Sad Songs (Album Review)

The Lilac Time – No Sad Songs (Album Review)


The usual accolade that Stephen Duffy, lead vocalist and primary songwriter of the English band The Lilac Time, gets to receive is his having been the original singer and one of the co-founders of the pioneering New Wave–classifiable band Duran Duran. His tenure with the band was short-lived, so short that it did not produce any song to his credit or with him on vocals. However, there is so much more about Duffy beyond this iconic piece of history. He eventually became a prolific solo artist, releasing six studio albums under various guises of his name; an effective collaborative songwriter with other artists whom included Steven Page (formerly of Barenaked Ladies) and Robbie Williams (formerly of Take That); as well as the frontman of The Lilac Time—the band that he formed with his brother Nick in 1986, in Herefordshire, England. In its sporadic existence, The Lilac Time has released nine studio albums, from the self-titled debut of 1987 to the latest oeuvre, No Sad Songs. Currently, the band consists of Stephen, Nick, Claire Worrall, and Melvin Duffy (not related to the brothers).

Released on April 6, 2015, No Sad Songs has captured, both lyrically and musically, the essence of what has been regarded as New Romantic Pop in music genealogy—a style of music with Pop sensibilities but steeped with poetically romantic lyricism set on textured instrumentation and a well-orchestrated backdrop that alludes to the early 19th-century’s Romantic period of Classical music. It opens aptly with the New Romantic balladry of “The First Song of Spring,” whose orchestral landscape and lyrical foliage can easily melt a thousand yearning hearts. This courtly demeanor flows into “She Writes a Symphony,” in which Duffy proudly professes his love for his muse. Notably, it exudes a melodic scent of Barenaked Ladies’ second album, 1996’s Maybe You Should Drive, for which Duffy had collaborated with the band’s former vocalist Page. Worth checking out for comparison’s sake are the Duffy-Page composition “Everything Old Is New Again” as well as “You Will Be Waiting” and “These Apples,” whose lyrics include the line: “A friend brought me flowers, she said they were lilacs”! Mere coincidence or intentional homage? Either way, it is so brilliant, if not, just lovely.

Then there is the Folk/Country-tinged slow ballad “The Wedding Song,” which stands out with its incorporation of shimmering glissando guitar technique and tremolo picking on the mandolin. It also harks to the song “Black Velvet,” from the band’s first album. The same mandolin sound is heard again on “Babylon Revisited;” but this time, with an added delicacy of Mediterranean/Latin tropicana. The string-heavy title track and the very ambient “The Dream that Woke Me” return the rhythm to the album’s serious and somber mood.

With its steady midtempo, dancey beat, catchy melodies, and haunting backing vocals, “Prussian Blue” is certainly the album’s New Wave/Pop highlight. The acoustically oriented “The Western Greyhound,” on the other hand, is a breath of cool and relaxing air, a seeming reminder that the album is nearing its end. The following tuneful, playful flare and sparkle of “Rag Tag & Bobtail” represents The Lilac Time’s penchant for featuring instrumentals in their albums. Then finally, No Sad Songs closes with the sparse and ethereal beauty of “A Cat on the Long Wave.”

Nearly thirty years of activity, albeit intermittently; and its last album’s having been released eight years ago, still The Lilac Time’s new batch of positively worded and fervently expressed songs proves to be another laurel on Duffy’s sleeves. His creativity and clarity of musical vision remains as brilliant as ever. Since that fateful day in 1979 when he decided that he did not fit into the final architectural design of the band that he co-founded with John Taylor and Nick Rhodes, Duffy has indeed come a long way, traversing sophisticated and better musical paths that proved not only fruitful but also, most likely, more gratifying on his part as an artist. No more sad songs indeed, at least for the meantime. CrypticRock gives The Lilac Time’s new album 4 out of 5 stars.


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aLfie vera mella
aLfie vera mella

Born in 1971 in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella immigrated to Canada in 2003. He has since then been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, working fulltime at a health care institution in the city while also serving as the associate contributing editor of a local community newspaper, tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, Music, and Genres. Prior to coming to Canada, he was a registered nurse in the Philippines and worked as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and magazines, handling Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. He was also the frontman and chief songwriter of an Alternative Rock/New Wave band, Half Life Half Death, releasing an album and a handful of singles. In Canada, he formed another band, haLf man haLf eLf; they are currently working on their first album. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books; listening to music; taking care of his eight-year-old son, Evawwen; participating at various community events; and exploring the diverse cultural beauty of Canada whenever schedule permits him. He has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines and, eventually, websites. He started writing album reviews for CrypticRock in 2015. In 2016, he published Part One (Literature & Languages) of his essay series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf? His next planned literary endeavor is to publish the remaining parts of the anthology and his works on Poetry, Fantasy Fiction, and Mythology.

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