England - Full Moon 250 - 01/12/17
The Blue Aeroplanes
Now well into their 4th decade, The Blue Aeroplanes longevity is one of music’s great joys. My favourite era was the major label, commercial heyday of the early 90s. Swagger
(1990), Beatsongs (1991) and Life Model (1994) together with the b-sides compilation (FriendLoverPlane 2).
Although largely a part-time project since then, continued lineup changes haven’t changed the spirit behind this most wonderful of art rockers, fronted by exceptional lyricist Gerard
Langley. Even in quiet times the Aeroplanes have played a traditional show each Christmas and band members have pursued cultural and academic roles in the arts around the Bristol area, including
local venue The Fleece.
Now they’re back, and with some intent. 2017 starts with a new album (and talk of a second before the year end), and their first proper UK tour in ages.
Welcome, Stranger! is fabulous. It’s 10 tracks long - the optimum album length. There’s no filler here.
"Looking for X’s On A Map" opens with a big rocker, setting the scene for an album full of what will become live favourites. There’s an inspired cover of late 90s garage blaster
"Sweet Like Chocolate", originally by Shanks & Bigfoot. It’s been given a thorough guitar rock reworking, with altered lyrics and a classic riff. I’ve only been listening for
a week and it already feels like an Aeroplanes standard.
"Retro Moon" starts with jangly guitars and builds up with backing harmonies evoking the sound of "Jacket Hangs" from all those years ago.
There are so many Langley lyrics in "Dead Tree, Dead Tree!", which work so well with his delivery:
“In Victoria Park, there’s a dead tree
It isn’t a symbol of anything - it’s just a dead tree
If they cut it down, it will still mean something to me”
“I never thought I’d get what I asked for
So I just don’t know what to ask for anymore”
“You know money can’t buy you love or transcendence
The only useful thing it can buy is independence”
“I love the body, I love the mind, I love the ties that bind
I try to be good, I try to be kind”
The song’s title lends itself to obvious crowd singalong possibilities and concludes after a fabulous bass line two thirds in.
The opening line of "Walking Under Ladders For A Living" joins the lengthy catalogue of memorable Aeroplanes’ starting lyrics:
“Seagulls - we eat their fish
so why shouldn’t they eat our chips”
It then evolves with multiple crescendos leading to marvellous shouty moments:
“All the best words are never enough!”
"Elvis Festival", which begins side 2, was the perfect album teaser when the video was released late in 2016. This rocker, complete with cowbell was the indicator that we were going
to get a few hi tempo, massive riff bangers.
"Nothing Will Ever Happen In The Future" has violins, a little guitar lick from original band member Nick Jacobs, and yet another arms in the air chorus:
“Want to be wanted
we need to be needed
we love to be loved”
No proper Aeroplanes album is complete without a song written and sung by one of the guitarists in the band. This has worked to great effect in the past, notably with Rodney Allen’s
songs giving a contrast and complement. Here, Bec Jevons sings her track "Skin", giving the album an extra up tempo dimension.
The penultimate track - "Here Is The Heart Of All Wild Things" begins differently, suggesting a change to the preceding tone of the album, with a gentle guitar melody and Gerard’s
rhythmic vocal delivery. By the end, it’s a full on drum crashing, guitar thrashing noiseblast.
Finishing with Poetland, a track that evokes the sound of late 80s REM is an unusual album closer, but somehow fitting - “it's like Poundland, only weirder” says Langley.
This is an album full of big noise, big guitars and a new set of songs that are perfect for Wojtek, the band’s legendary dancer, to excel at. 10 songs that will reward multiple listens
with magnificent lyrics, outstanding production and musicianship.
A career highlight, Welcome, Stranger! is easily the most enjoyable Blue Aeroplanes record for over 20 years.
Copyright © 2017 Craig Scrogie