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Ian McCulloch: Holy Ghosts/ Pro Patria Mori

Still crucial after all this time.

With a press release that all but says, “Don’t bother with the studio album,” Ian McCulloch’s latest is a double CD, one of a recent orchestral set of oldies and one fan-funded set of new songs originally given a limited release last year.

Despite the odd PR, the orchestral set (arranged by Youth) is pleasant enough, breaking little new ground and ignoring any fresh vistas opened up by the project. There are nice versions of all the songs you know.

The solo album is a lot more interesting. Produced with a light MOR-ish edge reminiscent of mid-60s Jimmy Webb or Scott Walker, it features some of McCulloch’s most personal songs, the title track being a reflection on war and death, and the excellent Me And David Bowie an actually moving tribute to Mac’s hero (“I didn’t meet him,” said McCulloch famously. “He met me.”) ‘Just wanted to know now/If you’re hunky dory,’ he sings, in a lyric written before Bowie’s reappearance. Bet he’s pleased now.