In the early 2000s, with his band the Lightning Seeds on indefinite hold and his personal life unraveling, Ian Broudie ended up in Liverpool working as producer for the Coral and the Zutons, helping craft each band's debut album. During downtime in his hotel room, Broudie turned to writing songs to while away the hours. During downtime at the studio, he began recording them, often with the help of members of the bands as they trickled in for their own sessions. The songs are sad, with tender melodies and heartbreaking lyrics sung by Broudie in a voice that sometimes seems right on the edge of tears. He and the musicians treat the songs with kid gloves, surrounding the vocals with gently strummed guitars, calm percussion, and whatever else seems to fit. Everything from accordion to organ, from bass harmonica to spaghetti Western guitar makes an appearance in just the right spot. Unsurprisingly, much of the record comes across like Broudie fronting the Coral (or Zutons) -- only a less jaunty and rambunctious version of those young bands. It's a match made in adult pop heaven, with Broudie's sugar-sweet melodies and heartsick vocals pairing perfectly with the musicians' deft accompaniment. Quite a few of the tracks could have been given the glossy Lightning Seeds treatment and ended up sounding radio ready. Hearing them stripped down and almost folky -- as with the lilting "Whenever I Do" or rollicking "Got No Plans" -- is a treat. The truly lovely "Lipstick" definitely could have been a hit if given more than a tip-tap drum machine and acoustic guitar arrangement. As it stands, it's just the most affecting song on the album. Other cuts feel completely different from the usual Broudie M.O., and that makes them very interesting, too. The tearfully mournful title track or the string-laden "He Sails Tonight" go down much more calmly melancholy avenues than usual; "Always Knocking" is a weird slice of pirate reggae; and "Smoke Rings" convincingly positions Broudie as a laid-back country-rocker. By the time the album's last note fades and the cloud of gentle melancholy begins to lift just a bit, it's clear that Broudie made the right choice to write these songs, no matter how much they might have hurt, and that enlisting the Coral and Zutons to help out was a brilliant move. Together they craft a record that, for once, plays the sad songs sad, instead of bright and shiny, and lets Broudie escape the world of pop in favor of something smaller and more human.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra