If you look at the sales figures, you get the strong impression that The Lilac Time is a band that is rather moderately successful in occupying a niche in English folk music with less than 1000 copies each of their ten albums to date. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the quality of the albums, but rather with the restrained interest of the audience in this kind of music. But it also has to do with the fact that The Lilac Time and especially the founder and singer of the band Stephen Duffy have never been very keen on huge success with the audience, which is reflected in the degree of popularity. It is by no means the case that Stephen Duffy can't do otherwise, since he was an extremely successful songwriter for Robby Williams in 2005 and long ago co-initiated the band Duran Duran as singer and songwriter. So, you can assume that the man knows what he wants. And what he wants nowadays and what the new album Return to Us announces is soft English folk with remarkably current political demands.
The cover of the new album builds a bridge back to the band's past, namely to the first album The Lilac Time from 1987, whose cover is based on the cover of Return to Us. But there is also a bridging effect when it comes to the political mood in Great Britain, which at that time was split as deeply into rich and poor as today's Brexit Great Britain in remain and leave. Stephen shows little understanding for the Remainer's outmoded longing for a global empire. He expresses this aversion and the ancestral mood in his homeland, which is now on the brink of elections, in his new album. And he doesn't do this in an aggressive tone, but in a British restrained way, and thus by no means less sustainable. A nice example of this can be found in the title track: "If disco sucks, then so does rock, let's stop them turning back the clocks much further, return to us, we are right where you left us".
On Return to Us you can hear the core team of The Lilac Time, who have been active from the beginning with Nick Duffy, Claire Duffy and Stephen Duffy, and who have been making up Lilac Time since 2015. The album's nine tracks, which were recorded in Nick and Stephen Duffy's home studio, primarily refer to the current political situation by referring to past events, such as D-Day in "March To The Docks", to central auditory processing disturbances in "King Kopetsky", to life before the invention of the Internet in "The Simple Things", to Italian neorealism in "A River That Runs Both Ways", to the worldwide growing stupidity in "(I'm) A Believer".
Return to Us is a high point in the long history of Lilac Time, not least because of its clear political claim. Very worth listening to.
Stephen Duffy & The Lilac Time