It’s rare something so rich hits the inbox, something so thickened by history’s production. There’s a warmth and a smoothness and freedom that runs through this recently re-released album.
‘Short Cut Draw Blood‘ is a wide reaching thing, a flexing of tastes and of styles. From the disco infusion of the opening track, built from 70’s drum machines, sax and stabbed keys, we weave through Capaldi’s aesthetics. It’s a cool open start to the album. This soft mix of disco and easy touch funk could belong in a Motown collection.
What follows is smooth Box Tops balladry. The wonderfully plush ‘It’s All Up To You’ plays with lush strings and sunned pop. There’s an afterglow’s brightness, a sweeping, mournful feel, and a bassline that swings out and bounces. And with the natural geniality of solo George Harrison, Capaldi’s voice moves free and breezy. It’s one of the album’s original singles, and just seems to ooze a sweet groove.
Elsewhere, we he head into Marley/Wailers territory with another quick twist in direction. And even though every one of my natural aversions spikes and pricks at the lifts of a first and third rhythm, it’s owned, it’s got soul, it’s got weight. ‘Johnny Too Bad’ could be any Suicide or Cash song with its fable of violence and grit. I’m not sure if I’m happy that its cautions are timely, or sad that we still need reminding. Either way it’s a fine piece of songcraft.
These cautionary themes thread the album. But don’t worry, this is no ‘protest music’. Any fears we might have of flower power remnants drifting on into ’75, these fears can be rested and stayed.
The title track predates our climate emergency and warns against all our inactions. 46 years since the original release and we’re ringing the same bells and klaxons. ‘Short Cut Draw Blood‘ is concise and propulsive, wrapped up in sporadic pre-glam piano and post garage wahwah guitars. With a heavy grind rhythm that pushes the pulse of the music’s momentum, there’s a mean sense of movement and urgency. It’s bolstered by what could be an anti-Bowie romance with all things Starman-bound and wide eyed. ‘Living on a Marble’ sends our destructive behaviours into space and on out to the stars as our own planet breaks up beneath us. There’s an unexpected and blistering Bob Seager & the Last Heard aggression, and some immaculate MC5 solos. These two tracks are the certified centrepiece.
As with anything that shifts far and wide in its play, there are moments that fall from these highs. The closing tracks almost clunk as they clumsily lurch between over cooked half-speech and slush. ‘Keep On Trying’ is too close to Lou Reed at least best, and ‘Seagull‘ is folk-sweetened saccharine.
But by these tracks, the impact’s been made. The skill and the thrill of a writer on form has shone through the best parts of the album. There’s that warmth, that conviction, and a clam lack of fear, and a feeling of freedom that shines. ‘Short Cut Draw Blood‘ has been pulled from the archives and lives on digital platforms worldwide.