At first or second listen, this sounds unnervingly like a solo album that Ray Davies might have made circa the early 1970s. There's that same witty melodicism, and a similar resigned yet bemused air to Suggs' vocal delivery. It manages, though, not to sound like an inferior rewrite of Kinks cliches, and upon closer inspection, reveals Suggs to be more his own man than might initially be suspected. Suggs favors far more abstract lyrics, for one thing, imbued with rather creepy images of vultures, skeletons, and dreamy disorientation. In addition, the music is more speckled with Americana than what Davies and the Kinks played, as heard on the enchanting minor-keyed mandolin strums and desert guide slide that anchor "The Rambler Vs. the Vulture/Devils Dance," managing to strike a mood between Appalachia and Tex-Mex balladry. Like few other ambitious musicians, singer-songwriter-identified and otherwise, working in indie rock circa 2000, Suggs knows how to use understatement instead of trying too hard or opting for an in-your-face approach.
In There Is No Love, Davies, Sylvian and Wastell offer a sparse and brooding setting of Bernard Marie Koltès’ text – part of a longer play from 1985 - in which its two characters, named only the Dealer and Buyer, are barely more than ciphers, their ghostly figures enacting a mysterious negotiation in a crepuscular world where emotional engagement has departed in place of commodified exchange (“There is no love”.) What, exactly, is being bought and sold is never revealed, yet Sylvian’s careful enunciation bristles with implicit violence and desire.
Until the End of the World is a definite contender for best motion picture soundtrack of the 1990s. With a lineup that includes Talking Heads, Lou Reed, R.E.M., Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, U2, and others all providing original songs or new covers, it's an absolute joy. Interspersed with Graeme Revell's haunting ambient score, virtually every pop/rock track works perfectly as part of a cohesive whole. "Sax and Violins," recorded during the dying days of Talking Heads, might be the band's most confident moment, as a jazzy background shuffle and keyboards provide compelling momentum underneath David Byrne's sarcastic vocals. Crime & the City Solution could have made an entire career out of the emotional yet existential "The Adversary." R.E.M. and Depeche Mode both contribute touching ballads. "Fretless" is one of the most beautiful tracks to be found in R.E.M.'s discography, documenting a wounded relationship with subtle grace. "Death's Door" is one of those sad numbers Depeche Mode fans have grown to love, with Martin Gore handling the vocals.