To listen to Mike Scott's soulful Celtic voice, grapple with his visionary lyrics and surrender to the wild, flowing abandon of his band in full flight is to touch the very spirit of music. At his best, Scott is as good as it gets. And the new Waterboys album, Book of Lightning, represents Scott at the top of his game.
If quality of work were the only criteria, the man should be a rock legend by now. But if he is famous for anything, it is for blowing chances, turning away from the bright lights down unmarked byways in search of his own truth. "Absorption in music is a way of having a spiritual experience for me," he has said of his wayward career. "Music has a life of its own."
Lyrically, Scott draws from the same rich sources of poetry, folk tale, sacred texts, blues and myth as Dylan. He relishes crunchy couplets and resonant metaphor, and leavens grandiloquent proclamations with humour. He writes with purpose and without waste, each line carrying its own weight.
Book of Lightning synthesises the stages of Mike Scott's journey, blending rock with folk in a 21st-century version of The Big Music. Lyrically, his dispatches evoke the wonders and horrors of our world. Whether summoning the storms of global warming with a sense of Biblical retribution (It's Gonna Rain), heralding the fall of corrupt powers (Love Will Shoot You Down) or musing on survival at the end of the world (the magisterial Sustain), Scott attacks his songs with relish.
With his talent, commitment and mystical otherness, Scott raises the bar for fellow songwriters. The Book of Lightning demands to be heard.