Charlie and Craig Reid don't exactly harmonize like traditional sibling vocal partners. Instead, the bespectacled twin brothers known as the Proclaimers compete with one another's voice at least as much as they complement it. This ability to stir up excitement by egging each other on has been pretty much the only gimmick for this folk-pop duo since its first record came out some seventeen years ago. Well, that and a Scottish burr thicker than the average Sean Connery impersonation.
It was the Proclaimers' second album, Sunshine on Leith, with its wedding of the duo's folkish influences to more richly textured rock arrangements, that became the template for everything that has followed. That album, released in 1988, contained one of 1993's biggest hit singles, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," thanks to its use in the movie Benny and Joon. Born Innocent is only the third release from the Proclaimers after their acknowledged classic.
Four of the first five songs on the new album are fiery, exuberant displays of the vocal mannerisms we've come to love. The hooks are huge, the beats propulsive, the themes bigger than life. "Hate My Love" is a hilarious examination of regret, while "Born Innocent" does nothing less than demolish any attempt to diminish self-esteem. In short, everything there was to love about "500 Miles" is on display again right here. All this and the jauntiest anti-war song ever, "Blood on Your Hands."
The rest of the album is full of smaller pleasures, the kind of concise examinations of moments and attitudes in people's lives that have typified the last couple of Proclaimers records. The songs aren't outsize, but they contain genuine emotions -- the need to believe a broken romance was once true, the differing expectations of new parents for their offspring, the awareness of love in its middle-aged richness. Here, the melodies are sweet and the vocal interjections quieter, but the Reid brothers still push each other to the top of their respective games.
The American release of this album contains two bonus live tracks from an October concert. "Unguarded Moments" and "Born Innocent" each benefit from fuller, more interactive band arrangements than the studio versions heard at the beginning of the record. Born Innocent was released a few months ago in England. It's nice to know that our long wait produced this extra pleasure.