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Wednesday, July 07, 2004  
Part Three


This Is Part Three Of The Enormous Embrace Exercise

A song-by-song directory and exegesis of my in-and-out-of-love affair with The Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band On Acid

Silly of me to think I could get all this done quick sharp in one go, eh? Even two goes defeated me. I must confess I feel as though I’m suffering from Calderdale Fatigue. Oh well… Come ‘ere, come ‘ere, there’s more… I have to finish this now, otherwise what’s the point?

Over
They did two new songs live at the Brixton gigs in December 2000 (I left one before Embrace had even been on – the acoustics at that place are shocking, I was drunk, J & Karim weren’t coming due to a written-off car; there didn’t seem like much point), “It’s Gonna Take Time” and this. IGTT was nice enough, big chorus, clanking guitar, blah blah yadda yadda, but this… this was something else altogether. Thinking about it now the only thing I know that does a similar thing this, this drawn out, dramatic, (dare I say it?) gothic overload, is Disintegration. Again this is in waltz time (and again it took Karim to clarify this for me IT SEEMS SO OBVIOUS NOW), but it’s huge and hollow and plaintive and free flowing in a way that nothing which came before it had been. I love this. It seethes, gathers itself from nothing and rolls forward, a soundworld in and of itself, never climaxing, never reaching a refrain, fading in parts and then coming back, huge swathes of sound crashing into and over each other. This is the BIG sound. How the fuck can Starsailor have a career when this exists? Hidden at the end is a tiny string sweep, delicate and quiet and beautiful. The overdriven peaks when guitar and synth collide and you can’t tell where one sound ends and another begins… Why do I love this band? Perhaps I should give you this song? Only it’s not a song…

I Hope You’re Happy Now
IYNB hit me fast and then drifted away slowly over the next six months. The way the chorus emerges from nothing, just a twist of the melody line and a hop and a jump and it’s away, carries on what I was saying earlier about Danny running lyrics past the end of lines (I’ve just put Rufus Wainwright on and while Danny’s not a patch on him at doing it, there’s a different purpose to the trick’s utilisation between the two; Rufus is basically doing show tunes, he’s got nothing in common with The Beatles or Simon & Garfunkel or Motown in his arrangements – it’s total Broadway). IHYHN is sweet and (I believe) anti-industry (tellingly?), accomplished and easy, and I haven’t listened to it by choice in two years. Which says something.

Many Will Learn
Whereas this, along with “Satellites”, “Over” and the (sort of) title track, made it onto the iPod. It’s almost as if that’s become the acid test; very rarely do full albums make it on there, it’s all favourite songs – 25 by Blur, 10 by Oasis, fucking 60-odd by Orbital (they do have full albums on there…), etcetera. This starts almost clumsily, not Richard’s guitar, maybe the opening melody? It doesn’t really prepare you for what’s coming, for the opening up, the falling harmonies, that sense of oceanic warmth… and yet IYNB is a very cold, chilly album, just after twilight, wrapped in mist. Again this isn’t a song so much as a feeling, an impression of a feeling (I always thought it was “you’re as honest as a comet” until I saw it written down), caught on tape. It’s luscious, in a word, but almost seems… not quite fully formed? It followed DFM very quickly, as if to try and capture the creative and emotional momentum of that period, and I wonder if songs didn’t quite get chance to breath and live properly. In the case of “Many Will Learn” this sensation probably grounds the song in a good way though – left to itself for longer it might have become too otherworldly and remote, as it is the balance is effective, perhaps accentuates the song’s more beautiful and transient qualities without over-egging them. Another thing about this album as a whole is that Mickey’s keyboards often sound too small and cheap, as if they tried too hard for ‘understated’; another sign of the band being rushed? Danny talked a lot of this album’s genesis as being about capturing a feeling of being ‘lost at sea’, which I think reveals a lot about the band’s mindset. It may have resulted in some beautiful music, but I don’t think it was healthy.

It’s Gonna Take Time
This is alright. Nice clanking bass towards the end. Never fully gets going though, does it? Mooted as a single, but Hut were so lax with marketing at this point that there was no fucking point. I’m interested to find out just how the lack of record company attention and care affected the band’s mindset at this point; recent words from the band about new material suggests they were disheartened during IYNB and didn’t even realise it at the time, hence the ‘lost at sea thing’. One things for sure – on this album they were MUCH better at the fluid, impressionistic moments than the straight-ahead ‘songs’. Barely any guitar on this, which is a shame; because Richard would rather be a drummer, he makes a very good guitarist – it’s about not overly respecting the instrument, I think, seeing it as a tool for making a song or a noise rather than as a wankboard. All the good guitar lines on this record got used up in “Over”, maybe.

Hey, What You Trying To Say
Really nicely arranged, especially the end. Danny wanted to get Neil Young in to play harmonica; unsurprisingly the crotchety old bastard never made it. The lyrics are about how clumsy we are with words, which is ironic because the lyrics are pretty poor, and the melody errs on the wrong side of cheese. Like I said, really great arrangement, subtle and tuneful, but I don’t ever listen to it. One friend who’s not particularly a fan said, on hearing IYNB, that this was their worst song (he said “Many Will Learn” was one of their best).

If You’ve Never Been In Love With Anything
More hooks than a convention of one-armed pirates. Beach Boys, Jim’ll Fix It, Spiritualized, etcetera. This grabbed me hard for a while but these days I’m less impressed. It’s not… mad enough? WAAAAY back when they said they wanted to sound like The Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper if Brian Wilson had joined, and maybe this is a stab at that? The end is great. A certain Mr Chappell said the main body of the song sounded too much like a demo, not properly balanced or full enough. I disagreed heartily at the time but I can see what he means now, I think. This still ended up on the iPod. I need to hear it again, maybe. This should have been a hit. This should have been massive. GLORIOUS. It never got released. wtf went wrong?!

Make It Last
Heard an early live version of this from a bootleg of that gig in a cave (no I don’t still have it, so don’t bother asking – I hate bootlegs, and after listening once I destroy them), and it had some weird keyboard trill running through it like The Flaming Lips doing Delakota’s “The Rock”. Second single. My least favourite on IYNB after HWYTTS. Minor-to-major is better than major-to-minor. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT HERE BUT KARIM UNDERSTANDS. It’s about looking at the stars rather than you’re navel – “you know we coulda” goes up and then “made it last” comes down and it’s horrible – like all those post-Flips bands with vocalists who really can’t sing, who can’t hold a breath enough to carry a melody line so they cut them all really short. Keep Going UP>>>

Happiness Will Get You In The End
Minimal acoustic nothing with a really nasty (in a good sense) lyric. I don’t like this song but I can appreciate it. I remember saying to Karim (he didn’t like it at all) that it was perhaps a song you could only get if you knew you were (emphasis on past tense) a cunt. I think in many ways I have a lot in common with old Danny; I just don’t worry about things like he does.

Satellites
I veer between a mild distaste for this, because it isn’t what it was, and loving it helplessly because it is what it could be… It opens up slowly… You can’t listen to it except in the dark. It is the dark. Storms are brewing but far away and for now you can still see the night sky… Why do I love this band? This is (for now?) the most sonically beautiful thing they’ve done, cold and empty but, as I said, opening up into something warm. Before that fucking thing on the train station they gave a CD away to the people who were going, along with a map and a ticket. The CD had lots of songs by various people to set the mood. This came last and it surprised so many… I remember the morning the MD of IYNB landed on my door mat, and although it was still technically summer it was a cold day, and as misty as you like. I cycled out to Dawlish Warren with my walkman, parked the bike up and walked to the point. You couldn’t see more than 30 feet, the entire world was sheathed in vapour, hidden, vanishing, and I traversed the sand listening. That’s why IYNB hit me so hard so fast, and then faded. The start and the end are such absolute peaks, they hold up the middle but also make its weakness apparent. “Satellites” was like the culmination of so much stuff. I don’t listen to it often, and after it I can’t listen to anything else by anyone for a good while.

Fight Yer Corner
This was held back from the DFM sessions too, and consequently has a much more colourful sound to it than IYNB and especially it’s b-side contemporaries (all the DFM stuff is painted in bright oranges and yellows for me, vibrant and detailed). It’s nice enough, but, as I’ve said before, I don’t own it and I don’t miss it.

It’s You I Make It For
Can’t remember anything about this other than the fact that it was another song recorded with a cold on Danny’s part. I can’t remember whether it was a messageboard post or an email, I think the former, but it was mid-2002 and I expressed my falling-out-of-love with Embrace fully and in no uncertain terms. I said there had been too many hesitations, too many mistakes and missteps, hurried judgements in the wrong places, that I was still waiting for the next record because the three so far had all been compromised and that now I was worried it would never come and I couldn’t afford to sit around waiting for it. I stopped visiting the site for some time. When I did go there it seemed as if it was populated by people who neither understood nor cared about what this band was about, what they stood for, which I thought I understood much better than anybody else. Maybe I do? Who knows. Danny emailed me back after that message and… I can’t quite recall? Apologised? I know he said the stuff they were working on had the scope and attention to detail “of Peter Jackson”. The thing is that this band are almost hopelessly misunderstood by so many people who aren’t aware of the bigger picture, who don’t understand that the statements way back when weren’t arrogance, they were ambitions, and yeah it is about feelings and soul (and I don’t believe in ‘soul’) but it’s also about music and songs. You can’t help who you fall in love with and you can’t help who you fall out of love with. Well maybe you can, but you probably shouldn’t. Sometimes a band just gets you… Just the way the drums fall makes you feel taller, fitter, better able to cope. And I don’t have problems coping in the first place. And I don’t stand at the back looking cool, not at things like that. I go down the front and lose my shit. I might not these days because I’ve done it too many times, because my hip’s fucked, because now I just want to listen and watch other people lose it (it’s their time after all now, I had mine) and soak it in, see what they’re capable of as a band because it’s still so much. It’s not about sitting on the steps and looking at the gutter, it’s about standing in the porch and looking at the stars. It’s not about hitting notes it’s about pulling strings. Yeah they’re clichés and platitudes and hokum and so fucking what? What’s a cliché but a truth that’s become horribly, laughably, uncomfortably apparent? Music doesn’t have to be a reaction to what’s gone before it in order to be ‘good’, it doesn’t have to be made by people interested in the same art as you or by people with the same education (I know art students and I know educated people and I know people in bands and I know people who actually craft things and I know people who are caught in traps and they’re all different and you can’t say some are worth more than others as a categorical fact because Dougie might be an alcoholic but he’s still a better carpenter and joiner than you are a whateeverthefuckyouare, the things he makes are actually beautiful and have a purpose). All music has to do is touch you. The best music doesn’t come from the city. The best music comes from people, whether they use sticks and stones or to make it or ProTools or trumpets and double-bass or a sampler. It picks you up and makes you see things differently and that can be Disco Inferno or Britney Spears or Underworld or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Charles Mingus or Embrace or anything that moves you in some way or another. Robin said “I was awake last night at 2am and I put the tele on and what the fuck were you doing there, Nick?!” and Robin might be bankrupt and dead now, massive heart attack brought about by being an alcoholic, debt-ridden scammer, huge swathes of things might have happened since then, whole new worlds might have been born in between but Jo can turn to me and say “the second one is still my favourite, I think” in that room, looking out of the window onto those people while J played records and I absently filmed stuff and it makes sense. I didn’t know in 1997 that I was going to be doing this. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in September. I don’t know what “It’s You I Make It For” sounds like and I don’t care and I’m allowed not to care, because I still care more than most.

Giving Forgiving And Giving In
Heard an early version of this that was just acoustic. It was nice enough. This rocks a bit more. It’s alright.

What You’ve Never Had You’ll Never Have
Didn’t like this at all. Cannibalised from that albatross. Had enough now.

what happens next?

And this is the End Of Part Three. There will be a Part Four, someday.


NJS

7/07/2004 02:19:00 pm

1 Comments:

Blogger Nick - 7:15 pm

Actually, you know, listening back to IYNB right now, it's not half bad. A solid 6, maybe even a 7, in review-speak.

Also, if you are American, buy the latest issue of GROOVES MAGAZINE for four stunning capsule reviews by yours truly, plus various bits by people I know via Stylus and ILM.

 

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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com


All material © Nick Southall, 2003/2004/2005