Edwyn Collins, Losing Sleep

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 03.09.11 in Reviews

Without knowing its backstory, you might figure that Losing Sleep is the sort of self-celebrating look backward that ex-punks of Edwyn Collins's generation occasionally release: the former Orange Juice frontman, now the godfather of a certain strain of indie-pop, joining forces with a bunch of artists he inspired (Johnny Marr, Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame, half of Franz Ferdinand) to revisit the territory of his three-decade career. It's got the sound of a totally solid Collins album — taut, twitchy arrangements with as much early Motown as early post-punk in their genes, offsetting Collins's shaky, earnest croon.

A celebration snatched from the jaws of disaster

The story of the album, though, makes it clear that it's a celebration snatched from the jaws of disaster. In 2005, cerebral hemorrhages left Collins bereft of language and unable to walk. He's had to re-learn how to do everything, including writing and talking; his singing voice is largely intact, but it must have taken an astonishing effort to get back there (it helps that a lot of its appeal in the first place was being a little bit off). If you pay a bit of attention to the lyrics on Losing Sleep, it's clear that a lot of them are about the artist assessing his losses and shoring up the talents that remain to him. "I'm halfway down to where I'm going," he sings with characteristic slyness on "Bored." That may be, but he's still at a commanding height.