Martin Briley opens his first new album in 21 years with "I never thought I'd come back" -- and the irony is missed by no one. And on this opening title track, there is the euphoria that comes with hearing the first new Briley album since his dynamite trilogy of '80s albums. Having mainly worked as a songwriter for other artists over the last two decades, Briley has certainly honed his craft as a writer -- but true devotees have missed his knack for intermingling ultra-clever wordplay, irresistible hooks, and edgy vocal performances that belied the subversion lurking beneath his complex lyrics. The man is a master at concocting delectable pop songs, but they have never had more bite than when he has performed them himself. And, though this may not be the Martin Briley of the '80s, there are many moments on It Comes in Waves when one triumphantly cries, "Briley is definitely back!" The gorgeous melodies and guitar work of "It Comes in Waves," the lush production of "In the Dim Light of a Brand New Day," the trademark snarl used to evoke the dystopian "Church of Disney," the lightning-fast power pop of "Me and My Invisible Friend," the Hair-like coda to "I Don't Think She Misses Me at All" -- these are all classic Briley moments. For some reason, Briley seems to have moved in more of a singer/songwriter direction (with songs like "Big Sun," "Pray for Rain," and "That Song"), but he wisely keeps himself above the self-indulgent banality that can often accompany that genre. Briley also includes his ultra-loungy sensual ballad "The Massage" -- his lone solo release (as a one-off single) between his '80s work and this album -- which gives the album a nice centerpiece. While it may not be the quirky Martin Briley listeners have come to know and love from his '80s projects (seriously, if you don't own The Mercury Years box set, do yourself a favor and order it) and may have even been tempered by a couple of decades spent tamping his idiosyncrasies down for other artists, this is still Martin Briley -- and, as such, is naturally better than most pop music out there. While there may be fewer classics than one of his 1980s masterpieces (with "Me and My Invisible Friend" and the title track being the top contenders on this record), this is still an album of great pop. Although missing some of the unique quirkiness that so wonderfully accompanied all three of his '80s albums, Briley is still definitely back -- as a solo act. And that is all that you really need to know.
It Comes in Waves Review
by Tomas Mureika