Elsewhere, Wareham is all sad-eyed romantic: “Love Is Not A Roof Against The Rain” is full of cinematic ’60s sweep, with strings and melancholy giving way to a “To Sir With Love”-inspired swoon. “My Eyes Are Blue” treads similar territory, stretching its romantic legs (“We’ll love you in the meantime / We’ll love you in the lean times”) in some pretty reverb. “Holding Pattern” throws a very gentle curveball into the mostly chill record, riding a hypnotic motorik groove into a falsetto (or maybe just vaguely strained) chorus; if there’s a song here that could put Wareham back into college radio’s good graces again, it’s this one. It’s even got an inscrutably catchy line in “Kansas, Boston, Toto, Journey / San Diego over Denver, 17 to 6.” It’s no “Slide” or “Tugboat,” but it doesn’t need to be: It’s gorgeous and comforting all the same.
It’s basically a concept album about indecision, as Wareham plays more of a soothing raconteur than a singer. “Come turn the world on again,” he intones on “Beat the Devil,” adding an electric 12-string guitar reminiscent of the Byrds. James mostly plays spacey keyboards throughout, but affixes some of his famously imaginative guitar flourishes. Wareham, who is joined by his partner Britta at times, adds an anthem of pacifism in “Heartless People,” an ode to limbo in “Holding Pattern,” and finally breaks out with “Happy & Free,” with the cooly optimistic “there’s nothing wrong with the road we’re on — happy and free, for a while.” Many of his lyrics are obliquely intellectual (singing about “the Argonaut sea”), but it adds up to an understated sonic triumph that is unlike anything else out there today.