Graham Parker & the Rumour: Three Chords Good (Primary Wave)

Serendipity strikes as Parker re-enters the zeitgeist. This is the first release in more than three decades by the British singer-songwriter Parker with his fabled pub-rock-cum-proto-new-wave backing band, and they reconvened just in time to appear as themselves on screen in the movie This Is 40.

Parker is, however, no fledgling musical artist: He has been recording regularly since the immortal one-two punch of Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment—released only months apart in 1976. He rivals contemporaries such as Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe for pop songwriting chops and lyrical insight, and even Bruce Springsteen has cited him as an influence.

With and without the Rumour, he has recorded more than 25 studio albums, and this one ranks among his best. His R&B-inflected vocals—sort of the missing link between Van Morrison and Kevin Rowland—sound as strong as ever. Once considered acerbic and angry, the 62-year-old Parker shows off the maturity and charm that have emerged during his career, especially in the aptly titled "Long Emotional Ride," on which he testifies to recently discovered wisdom, evincing wistfulness and warmth at the same time.

Song after song feels just right: the quasi-reggae of "Snake Oil Capital of the World," the neo-skiffle of "She Rocks Me," the after-midnight blues of "Old Soul" and the laid-back boogie of "A Lie Gets Halfway 'Round the World ...," which is highlighted by the great organ playing of Bob Andrews. Unnerving, though, is the first single, "Coathangers," during which guitars bristle and flex while Parker barks about the dark dangers of a world without abortion rights.

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