Review Summary: Isaak picks himself up.
Quick to do his two favourite things - to wail, and then to wail “lie” – on opener “Cheater’s Town”, Chris Isaak’s high-pitched problems return to aid him in continuing doing what he does best: feeling hurt. It’s been seven years since his face has last been caught amidst a summer breeze and plastered onto the cover of his very own rock ‘n’ roll record, but Isaak just seems to have picked up where Always Got Tonight
left off and taken it from there.
Fortunately, enough time has passed to let Chris Isaak simply to be Chris Isaak. It’s all down to the bravado: Isaak will forever be bound to balladry, because absolutely anything he writes comes out in uproar. To pin down his style is as easy as to analyse his single classic track; “Wicked Game”, with a casual backdrop of smooth guitar, is ever countered by Isaak’s loud and proud, temperamental howls. Just as importantly, it’s all about love. So to define the same formula is essentially the entirety of Mr. Lucky
. “You Don’t Cry Like I Do” evokes the nighttimes of “Wicked Game” (and after all, the discography suffering to its shadow) by the way of quiet, buttoned-up piano pop – on the surface opposites occur as Isaak cries and cries How long will this heart ache?
until his voice can strain hyperboles no more.
With two classic-rock throwbacks by the means of duets – be it Trisha Yearwood crooning alongside “Breaking Apart” or the Michelle Branch providing equally delicate vocals for “I Lose My Heart” – it certainly becomes a love album. To Isaak, this means sombre and operatic at the same time; both tracks are similarly string-emphasised, Yearwood’s moment entangled with a flurry of violins and Branch’s splashed with misplaced harp. Here, everything from the female voices to the crisp-clean production is a decoration for Isaak’s sadness.
To most, the irony behind titling his tenth effort Mr. Lucky
would come crushing down with cringes, were it not for the groove provided to the deserving studio sound. Things begin to look up for Isaak, ever the optimist in “We’ve Got Tomorrow” and creating a silky country sound with just his guitar - only to give out delightful, celebratory spells of trumpet. He invokes old tricks in “Mr. Lonely Man” too, creating a fast anthem from a bucketful of self-indulgence and sorrow. Mr. Lucky
even ends with Isaak unsure of himself – or, moreover, his backdrop, which switches early on from standard intimidation to an all out assortment of sleazy saxophone and loud, bouncy soul. To this track he and his band squeeze enough of everything, and almost break the habit of a lifetime by just enjoying themselves. Suddenly, it’s fun - and even when a Christmas album coined only further wallowing, one has to wonder what exactly has changed Chris Isaak’s mind.