And volume doesn’t just add punch to the music. Lyrically, The Up Escalator delivers another solid bracket of vitriolic Parker rants against conformity and associated mind-numbing and dumbing down (Devil's Sidewalk and Stupefaction) and  everyone who has questioned his abilities and denied him his just rewards and then want him to fill in the gaps in their Empty Lives.

You could pick a similar source of righteous anger in any of the other tracks. The loveless bastards who’d want to drown out The Beating Of Another Heart, the pull of obsessions and the denial of ambitions through the Endless Night, ineffective responses to demands and unexpected circumstances in Paralyzed and Manoeuvres. He might want to express love for a new bride in Jolie Jolie, but even that comes across as paranoid and can’t be expressed without an and don’t you forget it. You can’t, in the words of the last title on the album, have Love Without Greed, or maybe lust without emotional imperialism.

The bonus tracks, a vehement Women in Charge that suggests he’s got his tongue firmly in cheek when he suggests this is a fortunate development. A live reggaefied reworking of Hey Lord, Don’t Ask Me Questions mightn’t burn with the same incendiary passion of the Parkerilla version, but it isn’t exactly lacking in bite either.

Putting everything together, and accepting that it’s no Squeezing Out Sparks (which is fair enough from where I’m sitting, neither is anything else in his discography) played at a decent volume it’s not that bad.

I’m inclined to dismiss the contemporary critical response as a case of expectations set that were never likely to be filled, the sort of thing that happens when our little secret positions himself (or is positioned, same horse different jockey) for a shot at mainstream mass market success. A case, I suspect, of you can do it, but when you try, you’d better make sure the product really delivers, sonny Jim. The Up Escalator didn’t quite deliver at that level, and mightn’t have quite made it to the top of what might have been possible, but it’s not broken down in the basement either.

© Ian Hughes 2012