Finley Quaye’s latest offering, Vanguard, is a collection of love songs, life songs, and social criticisms. Mixing rock and reggae, Quaye provides a unique presentation. Sometimes he sings, sometimes he speaks; sometimes he is smooth and sometimes he is upbeat.
“Spiritualized” is a groovy love song. This is one of the few songs on the album that sounds more like pop than reggae. A fast guitar and steady drum mixed with a harmonica give the song a carefree-in-love feel. This is not a cheesy, mushy ditty about romance, however. He says that he has become spiritualized; his love has taken him to a new level. In the lyrics, he describes being able to see things in a new way and to hold a deeper appreciation for everything around him. It’s a nice approach to an age-old feeling.
Another love song that doesn’t smother the listener with romantic dribble is “Burning.” This is a mellow, slow dance kind of number. The reggae beat makes your hips sway and your feet shuffle. The basic premise of this song is that no matter how far apart the two lovers are, they are always working to get together. Quaye sings, “Everyday my heart is with you, because we cannot always be together, everyday I feel love, in all my preparation, this happy satisfaction is making my decision.” It’s a great take on the feelings that come during a long-distance relationship.
A big surprise on Vanguard is “Feeling Blue.” The initial expectation is that this is going to be one of those songs about sitting at the window watching the rain fall hard on the city below. Well, this is not that kind of blues song. From the first trumpet flourish, we know this is not a cry-in-your-beer song. The upbeat reggae rhythms and Quaye’s happy delivery gives us the idea that he does not mind feeling a little down sometimes; he recognizes it as a perfectly natural emotion. In the lyrics, he embraces the rain falling and the bewilderment that comes with the blues.
“Chad Valley” is one of the songs in which the lines are spoken rather than sung. Through the short, disconnected phrases, Quaye tells the story of meeting a woman who obviously captured his fancy. It seems, however, that it was not a completely blissful affair. They are no longer speaking and there is a sense of betrayal in the delivery. The instrumentation has a rock feel mixed with electronic sound, adding the frustrated tone of the piece.
Vanguard is collection of songs that are both thoughtful and enjoyable. Quaye’s outlook on life is insightful and his presentation is unique, separating him from the rest of the crowd.