Tuesday, July 06, 2004
The Enormous Embrace Exercise Part 2
A song-by-song directory and exegesis of my in-and-out-of-love affair with The Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band On Acid
On, on unto the breach dear friends or close this blog up with our Britpop dead! In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility, but when the blast of war blows in your ear then imitate the action of a tiger- Oh, fucking hell.
Don’t Turn Your Back On Love
Feelings I Thought You Shared
It just dawned on me that I completely neglected to include these two songs in Part 1, where they should, by rights, be. This is because they’re both pretty rubbish, to be honest; Richard even apologised to me for them at one point, saying they’d done them in a rush. One of them has some quite nice horns and the other has some noisy guitar, and that’s all I can remember. Oh well, onto the real part 2.
The Love It Takes
November 1999 and this was played on the radio when Danny (and Richard? who knows) made a trip to the BBC around the release of “Hooligan”. Blank tape, here we go… Starts with nothing, an electronic burble which is still different every time I hear it, and the drums are in a weird triangle, and and and and… The lyrics are clumsy, admit it – “there’s reasons you can’t SEE / you will be the end of ME / with the feelings I can’t FEEL” – but it doesn’t matter. The chorus is massive and comes from nowhere and everywhere at once BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER – electric hyperglide technicolour explosion, break for the skyline! It’s like Zappa and The Stone Roses on turbo, it’s not the greatest break ever, far fucking from it, but it doesn’t matter – the point is that this isn’t Santana or Zappa or anyone – it’s Embrace and they
don’t didn’t do things like this, it makes you hold your arms out wide and look upwards, it’s like a big orgasm that took a long time coming, like lots and lots of things that you hoped for and never really expected. Like getting CASTLE GREYSKULL for Christmas, aged 6. It may have been shit and plastic and too small compared to how you imagined it, it may have had NO BACK to it but it’s still fucking CASTLE GREYSKULL and therefore it is great and you have to love it despite itself.
The ‘funk’ one with loads of mad widdly organ solos scattered across it (Simple Minds, I hear you say – I WOULDN’T KNOW, I DON’T OWN ANY SIMPLE MINDS, I’M NOT A CUNT) the first time I saw this live two things struck me. 1; it’s got about three tunes (and all done with only two chords, so I’m told), and 2; how the fuck does an acoustic guitar make SO MUCH NOISE? It’s big and brash and daft and layered stupidly OTT and should have been a massive hit. Live it goes on for about 7 minutes, because “Bunker Song” is the coda. It shows Danny’s knack for making up daft words – plastiscenic this time, to go alongside engulfaphobia from “Blind”. Two remixes appeared on the single – at the time we (‘we’ being J, Karim and me) preferred the garage-y schizonutsness of the Reverend Bass mix (Reverend Bass being a guy with a magnificent worm-wig and a poorly back) which went at 1000mph, but playing them back a few weeks ago, after not hearing either for maybe three years, the Perfecto Remix stood out as having more focus and control, turning it into a big clanking dub thing. Have Oasis ever been remixed? Then shut up. Happy Mondays, the ghost of baggy, Sly Stone etcetera – did I mention that “One Big Family” sounds like “Only Shallow” gone dub-punk-terrace-chant? It does, you know.
Drawn From Memory
My opinion on this varies wildly. At one of the Blackpool gigs Danny moaned that people always go to the toilet during the slower songs, which are invariably his. He can’t possibly have seen me from the stage (with a couple of exceptions I always stand at the back looking cool at gigs) but I was one of those people who toodled off to make a piss during this song that night. In the bogs everyone was silent, except one chap who whistled the melody perfectly in time. It made for quite a magical slash. In the blue corner; it’s SEVEN MINUTES LONG, there’s only piano, a bit of bass, and some subtle atmospherics, Danny really doesn’t (didn’t) quite have the pipes to carry a tune so simply arranged, blah blah yadda yadda. In the red corner; it’s really pretty beautiful. Verdict? Acquitted on a technicality.
This is the end of “Save Me”. One minute forty of cheesy kinetic thump funk, fucking great fun.
New Adam New Eve
Back at the start the band were fond of saying things like “only Chemical Brothers and Prodigy are making music worth bothering with at the moment, everyone else is rubbish”, and that attitude excited me more than almost anything else, because it hinted at the promise of Embrace trying to be everything, it showed they weren’t stuck in some Golden Age Of Rock where Noel Gallagher can say ludicrous things like “a bassline doesn’t make a song good” and “a really great song can be played on just an acoustic guitar and still sound great” and lots of other hokey boys-club workaday “it’s about soul, man” BOLLOCKS. This song blows it all away. (J – “I was never that keen on New Adam…”) Layers of winding psychoschizo noise twisting too fast, drop some scratching in as a nasty hook, feel that fucking BASS for heaven’s sake, talk about “Airbag”, bugger off, this is absolutely savage, Danny’s best spite lyric – “the awful weight / spread across me when I wake / is your loving arm around me” – and the chorus is just do-do-do like Lou Reed did years ago, like some technorock Motown fuckjob, absolutely on the edge of chaos, as solid as a rock, visceral and daft, layers and layers and layers, the organ underneath playing all these tiny sweet hooks but smashed so utterly by the force of that bass and those drums (double-whack, always a good sign) and those guitars that it becomes evil too. Richard doesn’t solo here he just fucking hits it cos what’s the point in playing it properly, that’s no fun. And this tune, after the stuff that barely even used electricity, meant that that thing they said about Prodigy made sense, in a roundabout way.
And this is the same but cute, isn’t it? “We free-dinners-kids with the big ideas”, a great line, everything about the band summed up, the Nirvana fandom making sense but euphoric not misanthropic. Metallic grating to close – by this time I was squirming like a kid, what have they done? What have they done?! What have they done!!!
It seems really incongruous after all that, this little acoustic nothing, this apology set to tape. You can hear a chair creak and that makes it, but… It’s nice enough. Prettier than most. I guess I just don’t like the minimal ballads.
I Wouldn’t Wanna Happen To You
This could be my favourite song by them, this cantering little psychedelic thing, all flurries of leaves in summer and tiny melodic fills, circular guitar and horns and just… Danny said this album was their Paul’s Boutique, that it was about magic moments, little bits of sound that jump out at you, and it is. IWWHTY is one long buzz of gorgeous hooks. The rerecorded version for the single was lighter but lost, for me, that buzz of so much great stuff happening at once by paring it down a touch. Why do I love this band? Perhaps I ought to just give you this song.
I Had A Time
Or maybe this one? It’s trying too hard for that brief-encounter profundity, but fuck me if it’s not absolutely beautiful, vacant and intangible, slipping just out of view, the melody so slight as to almost vanish if you try and grasp it, some clarinet courtesy of Mike and shimmering keys from Mickey, guitar falling away… You don’t need a orchestra to break a heart. Beautiful.
Get On Board
This is just great, a slow-burner, laidback pop sung by Richard, undulating Byrds bass, sliding guitars to close, so understated and gorgeous and warm and weightless but not stuck in the past. Why do I love this band? Perhaps I ought to give you this song.
Still So Young
Mike wrote this. It’s pleasant enough, but never did anything for me. I’ve probably only listened to it three times.
The First Cut
Velvet Underground damp stomp, indecipherable, a firm favourite of The Fans Who Know, DOES SOMEONE IN THE BAND LIKE ARCHERY, DO THEY? ROFFLE.
I Know What’s Going On
Two-minutes, clapping, a guitar solo, a singy bit. Magnus at university (Magnus was a great man but I can’t remember his surname – married to a lovely woman named Bea, with a son who was the most ENORMOUS BABY EVER and who couldn’t say ‘Nick’ so used to gurgle something that sounded like ‘god’; should you ever happen across this, Magnus, get in touch!) said he thought this was the best thing they’d done because it was weightless and honest and open to the sky. He was a good man. He could tell you what a record was like by looking at the grooves. Before he became a dad we used to smoke huge amounts of ganja and listen to drum n bass and talk about music. God those days are so far away now. So long ago. How have years passed?
Top Of The Heap
A nice enough little tune, sounds good, but nothing to it. Won’t ever make the Perfect B-Sides Compilation.
Three Is A Magic Number
Live cover from a Radio 1 session – they dragged Bob Dorrough to do this with them at a Brixton gig – hey kids, De La Soul DID NOT COVER IT, they sampled it which is a totally different thing. Necessary irreverence here. THIS IS THE BIT WHERE I TALK ABOUT THE SECRET GIGS. From 19 to 22… That’s the timeline of the release of their first three albums for me. One just before university, one slap-bang in the middle, one just after. From Northampton everywhere in the country (except Devon) is easily accessible, especially London. And people would pick me up and drive me anywhere, pick me up at 11am in Manchester and drive me to Blackpool and feed me beer for breakfast because I was fun to have around (allegedly) YOU CAN’T DRINK WARM CANS OF GUINNESS IN A MOVING CAR, KARIM, YOU MENTALIST and I hate to get soppy and talk about times in my life or whatever, all that shit, because these songs don’t bring back memories (I don’t associate songs with things beyond colours and shapes and whether I enjoy them, they don’t really act as emotional batteries for me, this is why I like weird shit – I’m in space looking at music, as young Tom says; it’s about the point of contact, which is why things have to sound good on record, otherwise what’s the point? It’s what people still have in the future) but good lord, I will never have a time in my life like I did from January to December 2000. And thank fuck, because it was mental; I couldn’t do it again and I don’t remember much. I remember getting to SG3 slightly late (we got lost), and shouting “HIPPIES!” at the band because they had flowers and candles around them and Danny replied “J and Nick must have arrived then!” The gig was in a forest glade next to the lake where they tested the bouncing bomb – apart from the midges it was beautiful – Jo brought us cans of beer that had been cooling in a stream and I’m almost welling up remembering it, it was so great, Danny’s then girlfriend was talking about setting me up with her mate, wtf, we went for Thai at some point, maybe a few days later, or was that another time altogether, J’s birthday, back in time to May and the two Blackpool gigs, across to Leeds, down to Surbiton, across to London, drinking port (they had no Guinness!) and flashing my arse in some hotel at midnight on a Sunday after walking across Shepherd’s Bush Green shouting lines from Withnail with J and Richard, buying pornography and chocolate from a petrol station because it was funny, the guy in the booth making me laugh and me kissing the concrete in thanks, before the gig standing on a table in the pub next door and screaming at a wizard’s shoe, eating lots of burgers, fucking hell was this all real? The Wolverhampton thing, getting lost in Brixton, 15 pints of Guinness (allegedly – I wasn’t fucking counting), someone tearing curtains down (or not) in the name of rock n roll and sleepy friends… the lost goes on and on. It’s no wonder I burnt out a bit, moved back home, found a girl, settled down, got a 9-5 job in an office (admittedly a fucking mad office full of records and films and Bark Psychosis white label promos just casually laying around in the corner)… As for this tune, well, you know, it’s about MATHS and is quite good FUN to SING.
It’s a great title for a song, in the sense of “wide-eyed”. I recorded the first play off the radio onto MD and was nonplussed. I played it on repeat for 45 minutes, trying to get to grips with it. The guitar streaming under the gospel bit was good, and it’s a good song… but it never took off, it was never big and bold enough. Spiritualized released “Stop Your Crying” at almost the same time, and that seemed to trump “Wonder” at it’s own game. But you have to take things on their own terms to an extent; you have to understand what their point is… There is or was a simple charm about this… but… not really feeling it.
Anywhere You Go
This is a hangover from the DFM sessions – the shimmer to production is a dead giveaway. It’s pretty, but the trumpet at the end would be better if a; it was real (it might be, but I seriously suspect it isn’t), and b; if it did something other than just follow the rigid melody line it’s given. What this means is that I want Embrace to go jazz. Which is not going to happen.
Recorded with a cold on Danny’s part. Not good.
Same with this. Which leads me to the conclusion that, by this time, Hut didn’t give a fuck about Embrace because they were collapsing (the label, not the band), which led to the band being both rushed into things and also hideously neglected. Coupled with the fact that I was no longer going to gigs, that I was on the other side of the country again… burn out. Loss of interest. Impending doom? Maybe, nearly, not quite.
Caught In A Rush
This either has a brilliant and unexpected dynamic leap, or sounds like two songs held clumsily together with sellotape, depending on your perspective. As there doesn’t appear to be any organ or piano on this, and the guitar wasn’t typical Embrace guitar (remember Richard only has two solos!) some people wandered if maybe it was Mickey playing guitar, and Richard was absent being father? Unlikely seeing as it was probably recorded in his garage (so to speak). Like the other IYNB era b-sides, I don’t own this anymore, and I don’t really miss it.
And that is the End Of Part 2. Part three in about ten years…
7/06/2004 09:03:00 pm