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Midlife Mettle

The Proclaimers celebrate the release of the aptly titled Persevere

So, why the seven-year lag between albums? "We took far too long to write a few songs," Reid confesses. "I was at the stage of having seven or eight musical ideas and thinking, 'Well, I've got tunes for seven or eight songs that could definitely be album songs.' Instead of getting them completed, I would say, 'Well, maybe there could be a couple more, and then I'll start getting the lyrics.' I should have started doing that once I had a couple of ideas. I got out of the habit of completing songs. That's really what it was."

The brothers' personal lives interfered for a while, too. In addition to the usual complications associated with raising a large family, their father became seriously ill in 1997 and died in 1998. For the most part, the songs on Persevere reflect these events. The brothers write of their children, their wives and their father; a fourth theme of adultery presumably reflects Reid's insistence that not all their material is autobiographical: "We don't necessarily have every experience that's related in the songs, but if we don't actually have the experience, then we've seen it close up."

The Proclaimers are at their best when they write about deceptively trivial domestic subjects. Take "Sweet Little Girls," the music of which evokes the chorus of ooh-oohs in "Sympathy for the Devil" and the lyrics of which delve into the concurrent cruelty and innocence of little children. The great theme of the album, and the one that hits home the hardest, is fatherhood. "Act of Remembrance," although pretty, is a little too obvious an attempt to pay homage to their late father, but "That's When He Told Her" is a profoundly sympathetic leap into the experiences of the speaker's parents, and "One Too Many" is a rigorous re-creation of the painful wrestling by a child with a parent's death.

With Persevere, the Proclaimers have equaled the musical triumphs of Sunshine on Leith, delivering a series of snapshots that reveal the actual experience of life during middle age, when love is more complicated than it seems in the perennial adolescence of most popular music. It remains to be seen which film director will capitalize on the pleasures of Persevere.

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