In my estimation, Richard Thompson has never made a bad record, but has made records that are easy to be dispassionate about. His guitar playing remains exquisite and enviable, his wordplay head & shoulders above so many, but sometimes things don’t click like they ought to. You admire the recording while it is on, pop in Shoot Out The Lights or Rumour And Sigh when it is over and forget. Some might call that pretty good odds, but for the Thompson fan it can be deeply frustrating.
Dream Attic is just such an album. It starts off right with a barnburning rocker, “The Money Shuffle” which, after one listen to the disc, proves to sound little like the rest of the package. Thompson is having nasty fun at the expense of the banking industry and what they did to the world economy, and it is hard to argue with his ire. But then he becomes infatuated with the imagery, puns and double entendre of a roguish banker sodomizing the innocent populace, and if you’re not one to listen to lyrics, it probably won’t bug you. Thompson fans listen to lyrics though, and by the time he was plying the term “bonus”, I had enough.
The rest of the album leans heavily on the acoustic side of things, but even then, Thompson is a superstar. “Stumble On” and “If Love Whispers Your Name” are as brilliant as you’d expect, as the Scots-pub murder ballad “Sidney Wells” is vicious to the icy bone. Still, when it is all said and done, you’re immediately satisfied, enough so that you have no need to start the disc over again for another round. For some artists, that is perfectly fine. I expect to be captured by a Thompson album for days after the first listening, and yet I’ve had a reviewer’s copy of Dream Attic for over two months now and I still can’t get properly obsessed over it.
It could be that his previous album Sweet Warrior was such a powerhouse, a return to form if you will, that in comparison Dream Attic feels slightly anemic. I’m recommending the album to the fans and to anyone who is interested in incredibly agile guitar prowess and lyricism, but know that this still falls on the shores of the lesser banks of greatness.
Dream Attic is available from Amazon.Com