Babybird The Pleasures of Self Destruction

Things have come full circle for Stephen Jones (aka Babybird). Back in his early days, he made wonderful lo-fi albums of peculiar songs with a wanton disregard for cohesion or listenability. They were great, but then he had an international hit with "You're Gorgeous" and flirted with commercial success for a while before going back underground to record under a variety of monikers. His 11th album, The Pleasures of Self Destruction, is very much in line with the mentality of those early albums, although it's delivered with more polish and a guest spot from Johnny Depp on guitar. The trademark Babybird lyrical awkwardness and wit, however, are very apparent and so are the catchy tunes. Jones's refreshingly straightforward approach to his music makes for songs that are accessible despite a lyrical darkness that isn't immediately obvious to those singing along. Better still, he's able to deal with subject matter like love, religion and alcoholism without the typical mawkishness, and there are only a few minor missteps along the way. This is a surprisingly strong album from the veteran and a return to form. (Unison)