When Graham Parker reunited with the members of his band from the 1970s, the Rumour, he knew one element would be significantly better than on his classic albums "Howling Wind" and "Squeezing Out the Sparks": The vocals.
"I was a very unskilled and unprofessional singer," Parker says of his early work, which earned him a reputation as Britain's hottest angry young man. "What you did when you recorded in the '70s was, you did like a rough vocal, it didn't matter. I never knew about warming my voice up or practicing in the weeks before.
"'Squeezing Out Sparks' is a highly rated record, but if I am forced to listen to it, I'll hear [ he starts to sing wildly out of tune] 'discovering Japan.' It's like, 'Wow, this guy is not a great singer.' But people didn't like me for being a great singer. They liked passion and intensity."
Parker admits that passion and intensity sounds different 31 years removed from the last Rumour album.
"I suspect some people might expect something more frenetic but that would be absurd," he says of their new album, "Three Chords Good," which comes out Nov. 20 on a label started by the publishing company Primary Wave. "Everybody has become exceptionally good at their musicianship. The Rumour haven't lost any of their soul or intensity but it's a completely different intensity."
Parker and the Rumour will support the album with a 15-date tour of the U.S. that starts Nov. 24 in Tarrytown, N.Y., and wraps Dec. 19 in St. Paul, Minn. Two days after the tour ends, Parker and the Rumour will be seen in Judd Apatow's film "This is 40." Parker has three songs on the soundtrack, which Capitol will release on Dec. 11.
Parker was cast in the film to portray himself in something of a follow-up to "Knocked Up." In the film's scenario, he is the veteran artist enhancing the credibility of an independent start-up.
Apatow called Parker, who has toured for decades, sometimes solo and sometimes with a band, at an opportune time. Parker had a new set of songs he wanted to record and had emailed the Rumour's drummer and bassist, Steve Goulding and Andy Bodnar, with the intention of working as a trio. Parker would handle keyboards and guitars until Goulding joked that he should call the band's guitarists, Martin Belmont and Bob Andrews.
"They said yes," Parker says, sounding still a bit surprised by their response. "It seemed as if they had been waiting by their email machine for the last 30 years. It was a very weird thing. I asked, 'Does Brinsley (Schwarz) have an email address?' And somebody said he's remodeling his house so the electric is out. I got his phone number and he said 'Yeah, O.K.' So there it was. I was stuck with it, really. There was no thought of a Rumour reunion. If I sort of looked around at the situation in music I would have never done it."
The timing was perfect for the Apatow film and the entire band is seen in the movie. But the film forced Parker to a do few things he tends to not do quickly -- make album art decisions and come up with a title.
"I take months and months and months to ruminate and agonize over titles and here's Judd saying we need a title now," he says of the rumination that led to "Three Chords Good." "I have always looked for the more mysterious ones. There is a spare song that we will put out in one way or another with some seriously wild lyrics, one of which is 'porcelain jungle.' So I thought, 'Yeah, that will confuse everyone.' It's not even on the album. Judd put my feet to the fire so I emailed back, 'You like 'Three Chords Good'? He said 'O.K., we're done.'"