If Graham Parker had been given a dollar every time someone called him an "angry young man" in the '70s, he and his band could probably have driven a fleet of Porsches from gig to gig, but with the passage of time, Parker hasn't mellowed so much as he's evolved into a different sort of cranky guy, with the same wit and verbal acuity but a good bit more charm. If Parker used to be a more R&B-influenced Elvis Costello, a man with enough rage that he could tell God where to get off, in 2015 he's the Larry David of rock, a shade bitter but likable and funny to boot, and his backing band the Rumour has aged just as well, hitting less hard than they once did but gaining a swing and a groove that reminds us these guys were the All Stars of the pub rock scene once upon a time, where unpretentious and easygoing music ruled the day. Cut in an efficient six days, Mystery Glue is Parker's second album since reuniting with the Rumour in 2011, and though this doesn't rock with the impact of their '70s masterpieces like Heat Treatment or Squeezing Out Sparks, it sounds absolutely right for its time and place, with Parker easing his way through a set of songs that confirm he hasn't lost his touch as a lyricist and the Rumour giving him just the sound and the space that he needs. While Parker is more than capable of going dark and dramatic on the ominous "Fast Crowd" and the rueful "Flying into London," for the most part he sings with a sharp but inviting humor about his past versus his present ("Pub Crawl"), the state of the world ("Slow News Day"), the youthful misdeeds of himself and others ("I've Done Bad Things"), and his recent adventures in show business ("My Life in Movieland"). And if the Rumour seem more willing to stay out of Parker's way in the 21st century, their support is emphatic and adds just the right touch, especially Bob Andrews on keyboards, Steve Goulding on drums, and the guitars of Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont. Mystery Glue isn't an album about aging gracefully so much as aging right, and this is just about perfect for a 64-year-old Graham Parker, a proud survivor who lives to gripe another day, putting him far ahead of plenty of his peers.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming