When Andy White burst onto the scene three decades ago with Rave On, he seemed like the Irish equivalent of Billy Bragg. But while Bragg has always maintained a strong political stance with an emphasis on the campaigning folk tradition, White has steadily been releasing lyrical pop tunes that seem to owe more to The Beatles or Crowded House than The Clash or Bob Dylan.
The Belfast singer-songwriter's career is celebrated with a box set collection of his albums from 1986 onwards which includes the release of this, his 12th studio release.
It is the 'what happened next' after 2014's How Things Are which documented the end of his 15 year marriage.
We find him in lonely hotel rooms or musing over objects that remind him of the relationship. Not even having a Gibson guitar like John Lennon’s offers much in the way ofconsolation (The Girl From The Twilight Hotel).
He is nostalgic for the good times that he and his wife shared together but the fond memories are tinged with the merest hint of bitterness. On the open song, Half Time For You And I he sings "When I tell you I love you, you push me away/And just when I get over that you ask me to stay".
He says the separation was a "turbulent, exciting mess" but although White describes the recording process as "rough and live [and] less polished and more carefree than its predecessor" that's not really the way it sounds.
And I Want You is the only track that rocks with any intensity, the others are best classified as radio-friendly folk-pop tunes.
Furthermore, on both Anywhere With You Babe and Sideways No Shadow he writes about never wanting to let go as though he is still holding onto the hope that things can be patched up again. This impression is reinforced with You Mean Everything To Me which comes across more like a make up, than a break up, song.
I have no reason to doubt White's integrity, but it's simply that in these songs he appears more concerned to get the melodic hooks right than to express any deep emotional turmoil.
This is carried through up to the closing track, Everybody Wants Somebody, which could pass for an Oasis b-side and steals the opening couplet from Harry Nilsson "Everybody's talking at me, I can't hear a word they say".
To my ear, what is sorely lacking in this 12-track collection is the kind of raw honesty that would give some edge and draw you into White's world or perhaps help empathize with his plight.
Instead, Imaginary Lovers consists of a series of well constructed, intelligent pop songs that are pleasantly engaging but not a lot more.
Andy White's website