THE WATERBOYS at the Warehouse (1 Jarvis), Monday (March 26). $30. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
his ambition is simple enough -- Mike Scott wants his music heard. And he's willing to set aside his own name to do it. Having watched solid self-titled records go largely ignored, the Scottish-born singer and musician reactivated the dormant Waterboys tag for the excellent, massively anthemic A Rock In The Weary Land disc.
"I got fed up with people not recognizing my music," Scott says frankly. "It was fun putting records out under my name, and I loved doing a one-man show. But people just weren't making the connection that it was me. I have no regrets at all about calling this the Waterboys."
Already a critical smash in England, where it dropped last year -- "Even my old nemesis the NME liked it," Scott marvels -- A Rock juxtaposes trad instruments with the studio finery of synthesizers and a backwards drum loop, as on Dumbing Down The World.
And for the title track, Scott corralled a gospel choir for a hair-raising eight-minute, celtically ripped, totally righteous rock epic. Suddenly, the old-name-on-new-record game plan makes perfect sense.
"You don't have to have the old lineup to have the Waterboys," he allows, though original fiddle player Steve Wickham is back on the road with him. "When I made the first couple of records, it was only me. The Waterboys history is so blurred that people just don't know. And I like setting that straight."
There's some irony in the fact that Scott's latest disc, though full to bursting with big rallying songs, is actually a by-product of his disenchantment with London, where he settled following his stint at Scotland's Findhorn spiritual retreat and a two-year stay in New York City.
That he's selling his anti-London sentiment back to the very people making him so uncomfortable is more ironic still.
"I think I'm more affected by London than New York because it's my own culture," he says. "I get more pissed off. And I think New York is much saner than the London I came back to in 95, which seems terribly hung up on celebrity. There seems to be a nasty cocktail of violence and arrogance in the air."
As for the future, Scott says it's grand. European touring has been going down well, and A Rock In The Weary Land continues making new friends critically and commercially.
"Because I'm touring with a new Waterboys, it's been interesting gauging people's expectations," Scott says. "Some people come hoping for the fiddles-and-mandolins sound of the Fisherman's Blues album, some for the wide-screen sound of the first three albums.
"Others come hoping to hear the new album and its distorted vocal sound. Personally, I call our current show sonic rock."