Newell will never be spoken of in analytical Sunday paper pieces that examine how and if veteran rock musicians are growing into middle age gracefully, simply because he's not famous enough to merit mention in such media essays. Yet, for those paying attention, the fact is that he is reflecting the sentiments of a middle-aged musician clinging to his ideals better than almost anyone. These themes are a little more pronounced than usual in Radio Autumn Attic, simply because about half the songs deal with, directly or indirectly, the rigors and regrets of someone who's been on the music scene for decades. There's the Bohemian girl who's now a conventional mother in "The Duchess of Leylandia"; the incurable love of rock hangouts in "Beat Street" (which, not coincidentally, is the number musically closest to the feel of vintage British power pop); the weary conflation of low-paying guitar playing and the declining standards of loose women in "A Woman and Some Whisky"; and a general sense of guys traveling in the same rock & roll world both because they're comfortable in it, and because they're too tired to do something new. This stands out from other albums exploring similar areas, though, in that the music's upbeat, witty, and slightly self-deprecating, rather than sounding like complacent acceptance of maturity with a touch of nostalgia. Musically Newell offers what he usually does: bouncy, engaging British melodies, and well-crafted, varied production from a guitar-keyboard pop base, perhaps with more (though subtle) use of synthesizer and piano balladry here than is customary. The linking of tracks with some effects, foreign language speech, and mock radio jingles is nothing brilliant, but adds some sense of fun, as does the odd mock-Mediterranean café closer, "Prende Mi." And for more in a somewhat less heavy-hearted mood than many of the songs, as a bonus, this includes several tracks (all bunched at the end of the CD) of Newell reading excerpts from his book This Little Ziggy, an amusing memoir of his time as a young '70s glam rocker.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger