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An epidemic is sweeping the world: the epidemic of loneliness.” So says George Monbiot, who follows up his Guardian writing on isolation and alienation with an unexpected concept album for which he co-wrote the lyrics with Scottish singer-writer Ewan McLennan. It’s a powerful, poignant set, with McLennan’s effectively understated vocals matched against his classically influenced guitar work and harmonica, with sparse, effective backing including violin, harmonium and cello.
The best portraits of contemporary Eleanor Rigbys include a widow desperate for a supermarket chat, an immigrant hotel maid and the evocative story of a “curator of solitude” in a police station at night. Songs about the solutions include a banjo-backed call to Reclaim the Streets, and the thoughtful Such a Thing as Society, which would have made a better finale than the reworking of We Shall Overcome.