Wake Up and Say Goodbye (2008) had not been out for very long when David Usher announced on Facebook, the most trusted of media outlets, that he was going to start working on an acoustic album. “I like acoustic albums!” thousands of his Facebook friends agreed. He even created a space on his website for fans to vote on songs they’d like to hear reworked acoustically. My vote is not on the album—but, in all fairness to David, I suggested a song from his Moist days…and in greater fairness: who the hell am I to decide?
The Mile End Sessions, named after his neighbourhood in Montreal, still does well even without my input. It’s technically 11 tracks, but has three “bonus” ones at the end. If I’d pre-ordered I also would have received “Souring” from If God had Curves (2005). Morning Orbit (2001) has three representatives: the excellent opening rendition of “Alone in the Universe”, the predictable—and unnecessary due to the Jeff Martin remix on the original album—“Black Black Heart”, and the wonderful “My Way Out”. Wake Up and Say Goodbye also has three entries: “Everyday Things”, “And So We Run”, and “Kill the Lights”. David released acoustic snippets of the first two while he was writing them, so I already knew what they’d sound like. But no complaints! I’m happy to have them produced acoustically in full. “Kill the Lights”, like “The Music” from Strange Birds (2007), benefits from the new arrangement to express a different side of the original. “St Lawrence River” is the expected inclusion from Little Songs (1998), but it’s not as well done as the live version at the end of Hallucinations (2003). He tries to stylise the final note this time around and it just seems silly.
The album also includes three tracks I had never heard before. “Sparkle and Shine” was a bonus track I never received with my purchase of Strange Birds, “Fall to Pieces” is the only completely new track, and “Je repars” with Marie-Mai is a French rewrite of Hallucinations’ “I’m Coming Down”, which is itself included as a bonus track and yet is also the first English single. The lyrics of “Je repars” do not have the same meaning as those in “I’m Coming Down”, but the share exactly the same music. This becomes irritating when three songs on the album (including the Quebec radio edit bonus track of “Je repars”) all have the same melody. The “bonus track” tags were probably added as an excuse for this. My analysis of “Fall to Pieces” ceased when David name-drops Leonard Cohen. Instant winner in my book!
I’m far too biased in my love for David Usher to give an objective review of anything he does. My only complaint is that some of the backup vocal harmonies take away from the passion of his voice. Regardless, these arrangements are worth having even if you’re not a David Usher fan already. If you love me, love him too!