Friday, October 9, 1998 Published at 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Entertainment: New Music Releases
The Beautiful South
The Beautiful South: Quench (Go! Discs)
Old Red Eyes is back with a luscious long player - and not a drop of the hard stuff in sight.
It would appear that the only thing Paul Heaton props up these days is his growing collection of platinum discs.
And if - sorry, WHEN - Quench is added to the impressive hit-list, you wouldn't blame him for going out on one of his well-documented binges.
But the chances are he'll be celebrating with an orange juice or two and maybe even the odd non-alcoholic lager if he really decides to push the boat out.
Hell-raising days over
Yes, it looks like the former Housemartin's hell-raising days are well and truly behind him, but don't take my word for it - let's have a look at the evidence.
There's the title for starters and the pitiful inner-sleeve shot of the blurred bar scene, with a half-empty (or half-full, depending on your perspective) beer bottle and a G&T the only clearly-defined images.
But perhaps the most damning indictment of the demon drink comes in the wonderfully titled Look What I Found In My Beer ("a start to being lonely and an end to my career").
No holds-barred account of booze battle
"Look what I found in the mic, an end to screwed-up drinking and a Paul I actually like ... look what I found in the drum, a lifelong beat and a replacement to the rum ... "
Fellow-vocalists Jacqueline Abbott and Dave Hemingway chip in with their concerns, while the Doors-like riff is sadly poignant.
The Slide, where you go "when you're too old for the swings", is personified as "the long and silver murderer the Devil must have greased" and Window Shopping For Blinds (Irish folk with a dash of country and a hint of Seasons In The Sun) is another rock-bottom tale detailing the savings squandered on whisky and drugs.
But don't be fooled by the apparent morosity and morality of the words.
This is an up-beat album that flows like a river, with its good-time piano hooks, jaunty guitar and brazen brass.
Their finest hour
Quench is without doubt the Beautiful South's finest hour in a decade of eminence and it's no coincidence that sitting at the bottom of the credits, listed as 'rhythm consultant', is one Norman Cook, collaborating with Heaton for the first time since The Housemartins.
They've already had one of the singles of the year with the 'size doesn't matter' epic Perfect 10, that's more catchy than a flu epidemic, yet this is an album full of singles that could easily be repackaged and passed off as a Greatest Hits compilation in five years time.
Inevitably all good things come to an end and this conclusion is particularly fitting. Your Father And I is the differing accounts from both parents of their child's birth. He (with his "stinking breath") fondly remembers holding her hand, she remembers him not being sober enough to turn up.
Anyone fancy a pint? You must be joking.