Tuesday, August 10, 2004
And now for that there new album, yeah?
This Is Part Six 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
Not an ounce of fat on this. Some had thought it would be a 7-minute epic, huge, surging chorus, extended coda, fiddly intro, blah blah. NO. This is as tight as all hell. It’s like The Joshua Tree compressed into 4 minutes and not written and performed by cunts. It’s about the band (I think, anyway, and I am right, of course, because now this is my song, not their song, and soon it will be your song too, and by then it will be about whatever you want it to be about and sod what I think [and that, people, was always the point that anyone who called me a cunt did not get - this is what I think, now say what you think]). Danny said on Radio One the other day that “girlfriends in the past have always been annoyed at being second fiddle to the band” and this is the point at which that becomes possibly the most profound thing in terms of understanding what this record is about. Because it’s not about falling out of love with gurlz; it’s about music, and the band, and the struggle to make the music, the way they’ve been misunderstood and beaten down by certain parties and the fact that FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOU TOO because this owns, this is the shit, this is the real comeback single (alternate world, should have been). 0.49, right channel, wisps of electronic guitar interference. Little moments like that make this record, the same way they did DFM, only now the tunes are HUGE.
Like I said, they told me to my face about this song in 1997 and then made me wait fucking 7 fucking years the fucking fucks. Danny cannot sing as well as Edith Piaf, and this means he has to compensate. He does this by twisting melodies in ways you wouldn’t expect – not the same was Rufus does it because Rufus is an entertainer and is blessed with remarkable pipes – just listen to how he squeezes in “and you wont know how to act”, finding a whole other area of melodic territory within the line he’s already given himself. My brother on this song: “It’s just Embrace doing Embrace, innit?” Me: “Yeah, but better.” My brother: “True.” In that it is, um, BIG, and SOARING. Might just be their best song, their most fully realised anthem. Oh GUFF. This makes me cry because it’s so fucking GOOD. The dynamic falls and rises are perfect, the guitar just silver and burning enough. Get that pause, when the word “back” echoes into silence and then Danny says (“yeah!”) and things cut back in and Richard plays another gloriously retarded guitar non-solo and there’s a big gospel bit only done properly (sorry Jason you missed out there) and this screams WORLD CONQUERING SINGLE and is five or six minutes long and massive massive MASSIVE, starting and ending exactly as it should. The bass is doing subtly wonderful things, little rises and falls that raise your solar plexus. (Oh yeah, did I ever explain that Besty’s drum fills, although not groundbreaking or technically that astounding, make my chest feel like nothing else? Because they do.) Fucking hell yeah. Is it triumphalism? No. What is it that makes me cry? It’s just the melody in the opening verse, the fact that it’s so perfectly placed and poised so that you know how it goes and ALWAYS have known but it doesn’t repeat, it moves onwards. And the chorus… Which is “you will feel the way I feel someday” but I hear as “you wont feel the weight I feel someday” because it’s about shedding things and helping others, saying you can stand it and you’ll carry it for other people and one day soon it’ll be OK, more than OK, you wont have to carry those scars anymore. Because the music sheds them. Band catching up with songs? Yes.
Looking As You Are
Just a lovingly-crafted slice of pop music, delicate and powerful (get the rumbling, shouting middle-8, all twisted vocal lines and muscular rhythm). It’s at this point that it becomes apparent that the balance on this album between sound and song is remarkable – the opening guitars on this are nothing short of beautiful, to the extent that they don’t sound as if they’ve been written or slaved over, don’t even sound as if they’ve been played, but rather are just there, existing and complete. And the melody is, again, lovely, lapsing into broken-falsetto, exposing vulnerability but not sentimentality. A possible single. Which makes three possible singles and an actual single out of the first four songs (the actual single being the weakest track).
Wish ‘Em All Away
Nothing particularly remarkable about this track, it’s just very fucking strong, melodically etcetera, blah blah what what AND THEN you realise that, in the middle-8, at 2.29 in, there is not only the most wonderfully savage guitar blackness going on, but also A TRIBAL CHANT in the right channel, mimicking the bassline, the whole band plus assorted friends and lovers (except Steve, who, apparently wisely, videoed the episode) going “HOO-HA-HOO-HA-HOO-HA-HA-HA” like some fucked-up version of the All Blacks doing that thigh-slapping thing. Again, this is a possible single, and I hope to god it is, because in this climate it would go top ten and I’d love to have a “faceless Britpop outfit” doing the haka in the top ten just so I can scream at people for being unlistening idiots. If it wasn’t for that middle-8 I’d just think this song was ‘good’. As it is, it’s now brilliant.
Karim’s favourite? Certainly his tune in the way that “Too Many Times” is my tune. Two choruses. Massive. Lyrics about a tidal wave. Again it’s produced brilliantly and could easily be a single. It’s that surge of emotion that they always had but now it’s so much more competent and well delivered. Much to write about? Not really, just very fucking strong.
Spell It Out
I’m not sure, but I’d hazard that this was a Richard tune. Absolutely MAD time signature which seems really complicated (like 9/6 or something stupid and impossible) but is probably actually just another waltz. The reason I think this is Richard (Danny sings all the songs here, and sings them incredibly well – Youth’s bullying worked on many, many levels) is because, big as it is, it’s a pop song rather than a rock song or a big anthemic ballad with Buster Gonad balls or whatever. Also uses strings much more effectively than they have in the past; rather than existing on top of the tune they create space within it. Like “Ashes” this gets a powerful momentum going, and, although longer, it’s just as tight. Another thing about this record, EVERYONE in the band just sounds better, more on top of their game, playing harder. (Interestingly it seems as though Mickey Dale is less obviously present on this album than the last two – piano obviously down to him, but is some of the guitar his work too, I wonder?)
A Glorious Day
Was unsure about this when I first heard it, but finished it’s muscular and powerful in a way I couldn’t imagine before. There’s an oh-oh-ohoh bit which I thought would have people mocking Danny’s voice again (not about hitting notes, about pulling strings, you fucks; do you not realise what you’re invalidating by saying that he can’t sing when you don’t even listen? – if he couldn’t sing would he be able to deal with the melody in “Spell It Out”? No), but actually it’s stunning. Again, and I’m getting bored of typing this now but it’s true, this could be (and probably will be) a single. At Christmas time. And go top 3. And again is totally about the band; it even references “Wonder” at one point. Actually I like to think of it as being about Youth rather than the band.
I’m interested to see how people deal with this, because there’s not really any precedent for it in the band’s catalogue thus far. I gather that, like material from The Verve’s first two albums, this was put together from an extended jam by a couple of engineers under the band’s instruction. At first it feels almost formless, but patterns emerge over time, distinct patterns and melodies and movements. It’s a big grooving spacerock jam, basically, but because melody is so key to everything Embrace do it becomes more compelling. I think it might shock and scare people at first. I know one person who thought it was scarily negative, but I don’t get that. Ominous, sure, but it’s got a quiet confidence (“I’ve got my hammer all I see is nails” = we are equipped to do our job and we are going to do it better than ever before) which makes the threat not one of violence but of strength and intention. This may well signal where the band are off to next (and it definitely says “band” and not “songwriters”). I love this, but I’m weak for big, spacey jams. The guitar, keys, bass and drums are all remarkable, the sound echoes and rolls and expands. Oceanic might be a word. Oh come all ye unfaithful. Lets see how you deal with this.
Out Of Nothing
Starts as piano ballad with wisps of guitar feedback painting the corners and periphery, Danny as fallen choirboy, something about a dancing bear, sweetly desperational, resigned almost, forlorn some would say. And they’d be right, for a second. But this says, not in so many words, it’s over, it’s done, stand up, move on, goodbye. The feedback darts move it onward. And after two minutes and some an eruption, sudden and shocking, that sinking ship again, a cry, a plea, a violent eulogy for all the failed attempts before, crashing and writhing and then back to that choirboy, bidding us fairwell. And then nothingness. And then YOWL, howl, a punctured silence, as gasp of disbelief, a tumult, deep, anchored bass, layer upon layer upon spiralling, searing layer of white noise, the most sonically extreme and powerful thing they’ve ever done, chaos and disorder but bound to earthly ties, absolute dischord and breakdown, and then strange, melted, sunken noise falling away and away and away until silence again. This says that this band are not over. This says that this band mean business. It grabs hold of your guts and twists them, seizes the watermelon-sized hole in your chest, the drops of ruby-blood from your nose, the blackened space behind your eyes, and shakes you, shakes you until you are nothing. Out of nothing and back into it again. Make no mistake, this is a fucking powerful record, in every direction. I keep worrying that I’m going to overplay it, break it, make it lose it’s power, but, although I’m over the sobbing that grabbed hold of my body for that first week, it’s power is undiminished across… how many listens? Dozens. And hundreds more yet to come.
8/10/2004 08:20:00 pm