Feel the force of commitment.

Jeff Buckley's Grace album stands as the benchmark for any alternative singer songwriter. So peerless were the stories of love and loss put to some of the most note perfect music that we had ever heard that everything before was cast away and all that followed was compared. Sometimes these comparisons were inappropriate and based on the slightest stylistic ground (Muse sounds like Buckley, apparently, because Matt Bellamy sings in falsetto) but even the most staunch cynic could not deny that the importance of Grace was felt far and wide.

Max Shire does not sound much like Jeff Buckley and “Love Lost Again” does not sound like Grace. Yet they are similar in their ambition and focus and, moreover, in the desperation that both records hold close to their sound. “Love Lost Again” in many ways is the antithesis to everything that Buckley (or the idea of him) stood for. There is a deep sense of musicianship here, but rather than showcase this in floral, sonic soundscapes, this is heavy, dirty and raw. And for that we must love it.

“Love Lost Again” is one man dealing with his attitude and experience of love and relationships and, from the sound of the record, Max Shire is not a happy man. From the opening title track with its uneasy, In Utero-esque scales and chords it is clear that this is not going to be an easy ride. In fact, the knee jerk reaction is that this is a messy and confused recording. But, if you are patient, you find that this is far from the case. The deeper you get into “Love Lost Again” the better it sounds. The melodies are unconventional but strong and the songs, in spite of being challenging are, for the most part, rewarding. What really stands out about the album is the sheer force of Max Shire's performance. During the whole album he never lets up, the guitar playing is hard and his singing forces you to pay attention and listen.

And that is the great thing about “Love Lost Again”. Although there are no standout tracks and each song does sound alike, one feels refreshed by someone so unpretentious who so desperately wants you to believe in what he is saying. And it is reason above any other that gives “Love Lost Again” a strong thumbs up. Grace it is not, but you'll find that, if played back to back, this holds up almost as well. And that is a very, very rare thing indeed.