The Waterboys Universal Hall

The songs on Universal Hall have grown out of experiences at spiritual communities such as Scotland's Findhorn and Iona — places where songwriter Mike Scott no doubt finds peace and strength. Scott's interest in mysticism and spirituality has grown a heavily Christian shroud over the last few albums, something that has alienated many long-term fans. Universal Hall's religiosity may be jarring at first with song titles like "The Christ in You," "Silent Fellowship" and "Seek the Light" giving the impression we're going to bible camp. But Mike Scott is no slouch. While his songs may be hymns to a higher power they bear little resemblance to smiley-faced Christian rock. He's got his finger on the sensual language of Song of Solomon and draws in much from the New Age community to round out his own theology. And really, Scott has been writing about these themes for 20 years (just maybe not as blatantly) and usually they were focused more on illusive figures like Pan, not Christ. Having Steve Wickham on fiddle back in the fold will delight Waterboy fanatics, and forays into moderate electronica may attract new ones. This won't be remembered as Scott's best material but will probably be seen in time as his most mystical. (Minty Fresh)