4 April 2014 – Song of the Week by Steve Noble
Red Eyes by The War On Drugs
Every six months or so, my brother Ian, our good friend Al, and Brian Wilson disciple Sean retire to my brother’s home village in darkest Somerset. We’ll eat a lasagne, go to the pub to drink hoppy brown stuff, and then go back to my brother’s house. The curtains are drawn, the fire is lit, and the beers and snacks are on the table. It’s Vinyl Night and all is well with the world.
I started buying records again about 8 years ago. CDs were dull, MP3’s were nothing like as ubiquitous as they are now, and records were just…nicer. A proper piece of sleeve art in your hand, a circular slab of wax for your ears. I invested a couple of hundred quid in a deck, retrieved my collection from a bunch of black bin bags under the stairs, and bathed in the snap and crackle of Pop.
One New Year’s Eve Ian and I stayed up most of the night playing old 7”s, seeing in the New Year with Barbados Rum. We decided to invite friends to do the same thing and started theme nights – normally, a set of prompts to draw out interesting answers.
“This record reminds me of my first relationship.” “This is my song of the summer.” “I had a holiday in Cyprus.”
One time we even wrote and read out a drama, with our tracks as soundtrack.
Two weeks ago the theme was just…things we liked from 2013. (It didn’t have to date from 2013, just had to be something that you liked in the year.) Seany discussed his Talking Heads rediscovery, Al gloried in the wonder of John Grant, Ian played us his discoveries from the Green Man Festival.
You’re always listening out for something interesting and different and a good new discovery gets rewarded with a round of applause and a handshake. A couple of the tracks I played that went down the best were Music Eyz discoveries for me – the brilliant John Smith, the very noisy Drenge.
And then there was ‘Red Eyes’ by The War On Drugs. I put it on and from the first propulsive drumbeat we leaned into the sound. I’m a sucker for a pushbeat; the warmth of the jet engine pushing you, pressing you forward, like you’re standing in the heart of the speaker. I heard it on 6 Music first, and it stood out for its kineticism, its muscularity.
“You’re all I’ve got to wait / Running in the dark / I come to my soul / You can see it through the dark/It’s coming my way.” The lyrics are echoed, fed back, deliberately obscured. (They’re not even written on the inner sleeve of the album, and web-based lyrics sites resort to self-admitted guessing.) But throughout there’s that sense of hurry, of rush, of a journey to an impatient destiny.
Mainman Adam Granduciel is a contradiction. The song is fast, urgent, hook-filled, wanting you to like it – but his vocals are relaxed, setting in a different tone. There’s a yearning and an excitement but also a sense that the journey, rather than the destination, is what it’s all about.
It streaks and it turns and it loops and in the end there’s a sensation that you’re moving forever, the song could loop and loop and you’d watch the scenery fly by like the middle eight, returning with diversions to that powerful start time and time again.
Candles are guttering – heads are nodding gently in the room. It’s gone 4am, and beer bottles litter the coffee table. Fantastic mix of tunes tonight, from the cracked electro-pop of St Vincent, to the cough mixture tones of Bill Callaghan, to the lonely psychedelia of Beach House, to the perfect pop of Wire. It’s time for sleep.
I get up, say goodnight to the assembled gentlemen, walk in the direction of the bedroom. I look in the mirror. I’ve got Red Eyes.
By Steve Noble
Hear the Spotify Playlist for Vinyl Night at http://open.spotify.com/user/steev_nahrbl/playlist/0rcGE0EUx7ZHAiUVFJdb3m