It’s all well and good, these love songs from Paul Kelly. But then, maybe inevitably, it all goes to shit — and that’s when Spring and Fall starts to get good.
So good, in fact, that the album’s first nine songs end up taking on a deeper complexity, a reflected new meaning. Knowing where Kelly is headed ends up imbuing his initial sense of joy with all of this portent. Due on November 6, 2012, from Gawd Aggie Recordings, Kelly’s new album is in fact a dramatically complete rumination on the verities of passion, from its flushed-cheek flirts to its blindingly sensual newness, to its comfy regularity, to its sometimes sad, sad finale.
Still, on a first listen, though his voice often recalls a flinty young Dylan and his turns of phrase can drill right through your sternum, there isn’t often anything that stops you cold — despite this being the first studio album from Kelly in five years.
Then, he starts in with “None of Your Business Now.” All of the blood has drained from this thing, and in that cold, dark place, Kelly finds a way to frame a love that’s long gone with all of the short, sharp stabs of a prison-yard shiv.
“Send me no more letters,” he says, to start — sounding like an Aussie Nick Lowe, but having an Elvis Costello night. “It might make you feel better. But it’s none of your business now.” There are regrets shared, an offer of friendship. “You really just don’t get it,” Kelly spits — then lets out a breath, like a backfire of smoky venom. A lonely fiddle joins in — the perfect accompaniment to this sad rumination on acceptance after an awful separation — and Kelly repeats the opening stanza, but with a new twist: “I’m none of your business now.”
That sets up nicely for his farewell track, “Little Aches and Pains.” It’s some time later, and the anger over what’s happened has subsided. Yet there still remains, like an itch from a limb that’s been removed, this echo of hurt. In this way, Spring and Fall ends with a thunderclap, giving deeper meaning to everything that came before.