Well, we all allowed the South the indulgence of the covers album, even bought it for the hoot of having Olivia Neutron-Bomb and Blue Oyster Cult's finest moments cut down to size, but the five year wait for some decent original material has tried the patience more than somewhat.
Lyrically this album is spot on, by turns fragrant, sharp, whimsical, droll and acerbic. Age must have caught up with them because, apart from the clapped out old bus on the cover, there's a good helping of ruminating on mature love and relationships (Cat Loves The Mouse, where one naughty word earns the album its black and white sticker, and When Romance Is Dead), as well as the tribute to home town Manchester. But there is still time for social comment, as they touch upon such things as the public attacment to the cult of celebrities and soaps rather than the troubles in the world (Meanwhile).
Musically, things are on the whole a little more jaunty and uptempo than we're used to. There is a distinct country flavour, with banjos, mandolins and honky-tonk pub pianos much in evidence. Tunes and melodies are subtle - there is nothing that grabs you immediately or will sell a million - and grow on you. Paul, Dave and Alison's vocals are as strong as ever, and they combine and contrast perfectly.
Overall, it's a good album, not earth-shattering, but it'll do for now. At least it sounds as if they enjoyed recording it. And, by the way, the only difference between this and the limited edition is the packaging - this is the jewel case version.