TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker, has a review of a new album by the British singer-songwriter known as Wreckless Eric, Eric Goulden. He came to prominence during the punk rock era of the late 1970s, along with his label mates on Stiff Records, including Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Eric lives in America now with his wife, the singer and songwriter Amy Rigby. His new solo album is called "America."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS OF MY LIFE")
WRECKLESS ERIC: (Singing) Gray days, sunny days, days when it rained all day. Blue days, sad days, wasted half-forgotten days. These are the days of my life. I'm building a collection here, stacking up a lifetime's worth.
KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: As a transplanted Brit and an aging rocker who was never really a punk, Wreckless Eric has always been a pop musician. That is, he writes melodies with hooks in the chorus and fills his verses with quick, vivid details aimed to make you nod your head in recognition. The precise nostalgia and wry yearning he brings to this slice of autobiography rings true, funny and poignant.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEVERAL SHADES OF GREEN")
WRECKLESS ERIC: (Singing) I was nearly someone back in the day. I was in the lower reaches of the hit parade. In between the pages of some stupid magazines, posing in a jacket that I wouldn't be seen dead in or fit in today. I was out of time. I was out of step. Singing out of tune with some band that didn't get the pictures, the poetry though they said they liked the songs. And they always sang along though they usually got the words wrong. They did my head in. If I'd known then what I know now, but everybody says that it's a fool's game, I wouldn't do it different. I'd just do it all again. I'd take my turn. I'd stand in line for Groundhog Day. I'd do it all again for another crack at the hit parade. Oh, what do you think?
TUCKER: Unlike his 1970s label mates, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, or even Ian Dury, Eric didn't have a string of hit singles. He's mainly known for one song, "Whole Wide World" from 1977. If you've got to be a one-hit wonder, this is a great song to do it with.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHOLE WIDE WORLD")
WRECKLESS ERIC: (Singing) Or maybe she's in the Bahamas, where the Caribbean Sea is blue, weeping in a tropical moonlit night because nobody's talking about you. I'd go the whole wide world. I'd go the whole wide world just to find her. I'd go the whole wide world. I'd go the whole wide world to find out where they hide her. I'd go the whole wide world.
TUCKER: For this new album, "America," Eric stayed in his house in upstate New York, recording in various rooms, music played mostly by himself with assists from his wife, Amy Rigby - an excellent musician in her own right - plus a few other players here and there. The sound is melodic, intimate and musically raw. Eric takes pride in using first takes and keeping what he calls the jagged, grimy, muddy stuff. He's got the instincts of an excellent reporter with a great sense of narrative, as he proves on "Boy Band," the story of a fictitious teen act, their breakup, difficulties and redemption.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOY BAND")
WRECKLESS ERIC: (Singing) A boy band had their fifteen minutes, metamorphosed into men, then disappeared from view. They faded out, most like one of their own records on the radio, while the DJ talked about something else. And the public moved along. Two of them held up a filling station. They were caught on camera on the CCTV. Familiar faces on the backside of fame. Unlucky day.
TUCKER: Eric also has a knack for his setting ordinary life to music. And he can make his sharp, nasal voice sound gentle and intimate when he folds it into this very pretty tune about an unlikely subject for prettiness, highway trucks delivering food to restaurants.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SYSCO TRUCKS")
WRECKLESS ERIC: (Singing) Sysco trucks are rolling through the night, delivering the stuff that people like. State to state, along the interstate, catering for appetites they'll never satiate. From truck to plate, across the USA.
TUCKER: "America" is, as its title tells you, about Wreckless Eric's relationship with this country, how a British man in his 60s is taking to the United States - its culture, its food, its opportunities for love and work. Moving steadily into senior citizenship, he sounds settled but never complacent, reckless but never ungrateful.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Yahoo TV. He reviewed Wreckless Eric's new album, "America." Tomorrow, we'll feature our postponed interview with the star and director of the new film, "Brooklyn," which is based on the best-selling novel by Colm Toibin. Also, David Mitchell, who's best known for his novel "Cloud Atlas," will talk about his new novel, his stammer and how translating a book about autism helped him understand his autistic son. I hope you'll join us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.