Wednesday, October 03, 2007

once in full colo(u)r, now flickering black and white: still just as vivid.

back at the start of 2007, our new year resolutions were, basically: one. buy less music. two. listen to less music. three. write less about music. four. write less about anything: less digressions, less indiscretions, less is more. largely, we have made a complete mess of said resolutions, hence the continuation of this blog, which exists as it always has for one reason only: to try and inspire someone, anyone, to buy and to enjoy a record or two that they might not otherwise have sought out.

last year we got a bit over-excitable, and the volume of music we attempted to consume was frankly ridiculous, even before the start of our growing dependence on the output of radio 3 and panjab radio. so this time round, we thought that we might be able to break the addiction: perhaps by ignoring albums altogether, only picking up a few singles, limiting ourselves to narrower forms of musical media or genre, or only posting when there's an 'r' in the month and hell is averaging about zero degrees centigrade.

so we'd resisted ankle-deep description of the notting hill carnival, much as we wanted to try and encapsulate the street scenes, the cooking smoke, the criss-cross of once-grand victorian houses and epic estates in the long shadow of the amazing trellick tower, the palpitation-causing rumble of bass through the hot pavements, the whistles, the flags, quite how good a steel band can actually sound. we manfully resisted going on about the best horowitz show we've yet seen - at the grosvenor in stockwell - where the sound, in a sadly empty room, was a1 as they fizzed and fuzzed and buzzed through hit after cracking, crackling hit. we turned a blind eye to the mary chain's outing in brixton, which in the past might have conjured approx, erm, 9,000,000 rambling words (although for marginally more conciseness we would perhaps refer you honourable gentlefolk to the answer we gave some moments ago). we omitted to admit how at last seeing sarandon play live, underneath highbury corner's railway pub, brought home to us the utter utter folly in having failed to move mountains to see them before. we've even kept to a vow of silence on the generous fruits of a recent re-engagement with techno.

as we've said in another forum, this reticence has nothing to do with us growing out of the music - it's quite, quite the reverse. it's a reticence that is part of a conscious, albeit doomed, attempt to have a life not so dominated by listening to that music, or by endlessly trying to think of things to say or to write about it. for the truth is that the thrill never fades, and keeps being fed by seeing great bands live, or hearing new tunes booming from bass speakers, or receiving that glowing recommendation from someone you trust that you know you can't afford to ignore, or idly flicking through a vinyl rack out of sheer habit and stumbling across some new work of genius. and it never seems to take long for a new record (or two, or five, or twelve...) to appear and install itself in our psyche and to interfere with not only our new year's resolutions, but all our best intentions. so, on to the reason we've fallen off the wagon this time.

while we may just have mentioned boyracer's past travails and triumphs before e.g. here, it had taken us til' this autumn to discover that they apparently released their tenth album proper, "flickering b+w", back in the winter on 555 recs: as there were only 300 made, we thought we'd better even plump for the very last resort - yep, i-tunes - to get hold of (most of) it. having done so and imbibed, our considered view is that: (1) "flickering" just outnudges lp outing no. 9, "a punch up the bracket", itself one of those records that grew on us with cumulative listens, and (2) yes, but yes, boyracer remain prefects of the punk-pop perfect.

their latest sizzling collection of imperious slight-fi starts with the kooky confidence of the wonderful "wingtips" (a half-spoken word ditty about the cul-de-sac of the rat race - "all the hourly commutes / in your chocolate-brown suit" - that sarah diehards would have blanched at had its jaunty musical impishness turned up on "b is for boyracer", say), blossoms through the feedback-flecked "excuses" and the clattering pop noise of "let's see some action" then builds via ace brace "the secret fire" and "he told you" to the stunning crescendo of "you banged a married man" and the super-reflective "in my previous life", a subtle but stunning piece seemingly held together by "songs of frustration"-era keyboard shimmer. and we didn't even notice, until it was pointed out by a passing wizard, that the average song length on successive boyracer albums, continues, clandestinely, to rise.

as is usual, the lyrics across the piece veritably spit, simmer and burn with matter-of-fact anger, hard truths and accusations - "i'm tired of making excuses for you / just because we go back some way", or "he's the one who sold his soul / but the hollow feeling is yours and yours alone..." or even "you're juggling two men that / two years ago, you wouldn't have given the time of day to"... and because stewart has had a few ups and downs over the years, and because the attendant emotions have either been musically captured, or lyrically laid bare, in the threads of intricate and entwined narrative that have charged his songs throughout, and because in the meantime all of us have accelerated away from our youth with parallel growing pains and life changes, it's all the more meaningful when, minutes from the close, stewart suddenly comes out with something plaintive, not obfuscated by guitar scree or bitterness:

"may the wonder stay with us / not just tonight but for every night... so take me somewhere quiet ... / i want to drink / i want to talk..."

in other hands those lines might not work, and maybe writing them down doesn't do the song justice either... but in boyracer's hands, trust us, words like that can catch you off-guard and break you. "summer's here, choking me already", sing jen + stew elsewhere, as a drizzle of beautiful feedback rains down around them, and it kind of does the same thing.

ahem. we know that quality is what counts not quantity, but only being able to stretch to a run of 300 seems a nonsense for a band of this calibre (especially one with over a thousand myspace friends): as a planet we should be collectively ashamed of ourselves for having conspired to commercially throttle the likes of 555 through our past apathy.

if only boyracer were compulsorily piped through supermarkets and starbucks, we can't help but feel that the idiots would soon no longer be winning. until that time, we will continue to derive a rare pleasure from their records, and from growing older with them, even if it's sadly a pleasure shared by increasingly few.

may the wonder stay with us, indeed.