secret lovers, blood brothers...
(picture from blueboy unofficial site)
it's not too many posts ago that we were recalling how we saw blueboy play a "sound city" show in bristol at the (all too limited) peak of their acclaim, around the same time as sarah records was finishing with the flourish of the group's ever-wonderful "dirty mags" ep. we were remembering how we oh so naively but fervently then felt the band were on the crest of a wave, about to catapult into the hearts of a broader audience. but as history turned out of course, blueboy never *happened* to the wider world as they should have done, although we at least are still prepared to declare their subsequent, cruelly ignored swansong album on shinkansen, "the bank of england" as being at least the equal of the rightly-feted "if wishes were horses" or "unisex" sets.
it's hard to remember where we first came across blueboy and their frontman and singer, keith girdler... there was a compilation tape doing the rounds with a band called the art bunnies, who we think might have transmogrified into blueboy soon after. and there was another cassette circulating the classroom that featured keith and paul stewart's earlier outfit feverfew, with a splendid indie-pop nicety called "politics down the oesophagus". and of course once they fell within the bosom of sarah then we were lucky enough to see blueboy many times, at all our pet venues (fleece and firkin, jericho tavern, the thekla specials) and keith's voice was always such a treat, especially on certain songs ("amoroso" is the one we always think of, just for soppy and irrelevant personal reasons) or when it dovetailed with gemma's for "unisex"'s plush ballads. later, of course, the man worked similar mini-miracles for lovejoy, the snowdrops, beaumont...
while their pristine sarah debut 7" "clearer" was almost aggressively unashamed in its sensitivity, a lord's prayer for the post-sha-la-la generation the lyrics of which spilled so perfectly onto the sleeve insert that normally showcased clare and matt's wondrous prose, and spitting out mantras ("don't restrict me...") that helped define us and which we will forever fiercely defend, over the years blueboy absolutely blossomed, until big-hitting, grandstanding songs like "imipramine" or "miss uk" seemed to come naturally. managing to swagger, without ever succumbing to the laddishness that pulled the rug from under the mid-90s indie scene, they were a blueprint for what britpop should have been.
just listen to "meet johnny rave" now: another step forward for a label that was already in the vanguard. or "popkiss": a song that never quite lived up on record to the joyous noise that they made when they performed it live, but that gave us hope, happiness and succour as it married a harder, faster musical edge to sentiments that were still unimpeachable. and for tenderness squared, just listen again to "river", or "try happiness", or "love yourself", or "toulouse", or frankly pretty much anything they did. and shed a particular tear as their last ever song, "angel at my table", fades back into the tremulous tones of "clearer"'s timeless picked-out intro.
much more importantly, it transpires that all this time keith had a real life, doing real good. and it's in that light that this news is so truly, truly sad. and why other things, such as our day out at wembley, or a number of further fine records of 2007, must properly wait.
we're by far from the only ones who have much to thank keith for. i still think that of all the bands hailed in any quarters as the new smiths, blueboy got closest in the ways that really mattered - and clare and matt knew that. blueboy defined both themselves and sarah records so impeccably by being, as they sang, "positive, political and too good to be true". when we were younger, thinner, less assured, blueboy - and keith - definitely made a difference.