Mike + the Mechanics

Beggar on a Beach of Gold

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Mike + the Mechanics found themselves with faltering sales for Word of Mouth and for good reason, too; much of the album was filled with formulaic ballads and mediocre writing. With Beggar on a Beach of Gold, Mike Rutherford helped confront this problem by extending the songwriting duties, writing with Paul Carrack and producer Christopher Neil, as well as continuing his collaboration with B.A. Robertson. Thus, songs such as the upbeat numbers "Over My Shoulder" and "Another Cup of Coffee" effectively push past the band's formula with the musicians sounding looser than on previous records. "Plain and Simple" even has some loud guitars. Lyrically, the band has extended themselves as well. "The Ghost of Sex and You" and "Someone Always Hates Someone" approach serious questions about life and relationships without succumbing to adult contemporary clich├ęs. The production has also nicely updated Mike and the Mechanics' sound with electronic loops and keyboard effects, adding a spring to the band's step. While such safe nods to electronica will not impress many younger fans, it should excite the group's core audience, which is a bit older. In the end, although the band does not completely avoid bland material here, this is a surprisingly nice creative turn in the road for a group many counted out.

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