Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Wednesday 21 February 2024

This Is The Sea

Sparked maybe by listening to the new Bill Ryder- Jones album Iachyd Da and to Bjork's Post album from 1995, plus now I think of it Durutti Column's Domo Arigato, I've been subconsciously searching out music with strings recently, big music with orchestral instruments. I only started joining the dots when I started writing this post. As well as those above (none of which seem to be that directly related to each other sonically or thematically) last week took me to Penguin Cafe's 2023 album Rain Before Seven and to The Waterboys. I think maybe these connections are unrelated and as much prompted by links on blogs and websites but listing them does seem to reveal a pattern and I'm into that as an idea. I'll come back to Penguin Cafe another time though because today is all about The Waterboys. 

For some reason last week I had an urge to hear Fisherman's Blues, the 1988 album where Mike Scott did an about turn and headed away from The Big Music to Ireland and to traditional music, led at least partly by fiddle player Steve Wickham and also partly by the view from the top of the mountain, from the stadium tours supporting Simple Minds and U2 that This Is The Sea led him to. Mike decided he'd done enough of that, it wasn't a goal to pursue anymore and decided to follow his nose elsewhere. But back to This Is The Sea is where I headed after playing Fisherman's Blues (I'd forgotten incidentally how much of Fisherman's Blues I knew inside out, an album that was an essential part of late 1988. In our first term at university in Liverpool I had a friend who played it constantly and the music you hear at that age runs deep- Fisherman's Blues does for sure). 

After playing Fisherman's Blues a couple of times and enjoying it immensely I headed back to my copy of This Is The Sea, Mike's 1985 masterpiece, the culmination of several years work and songwriting, pulling together the sounds in his head and the themes in his writing with the ability, musicians and people to realise them fully. On This Is The Sea Karl Wallinger played a key role musically, a one man orchestra according to Mike. The album is also something of a state of the nation address, a record of important songs that takes in English politics and Thatcherism (on Old England), spirituality, meditation and shamanism (The Pan Within, Spirit), environmentalism (Don't Bang The Drum), love (Trumpets) and on The Whole Of The Moon a song started on the back of an envelope when his girlfriend asked him if writing a song was difficult and which turned into a tribute to an inspirational, mythic figure, a chart hit and a future end of the night Balearic anthem. All of this blasted its way through the speakers last week, all texture and dynamics, lyrics and vision, songs with an epic quality that I don't always go looking for in music but which has a real power on this record in Mike Scott's hands. The title track was the one which really cut through to me though...

This Is The Sea

The final song on the album, the end of the journey, the thrum of energy powered by a wall of acoustic guitars and a panoramic sense of scale, a fiddle and the poetry of the words- 'These things you keep/ You better throw them away/ Turn your back on your soulless days/ Once you were tethered/ Now you are free... That was the river/ This is the sea'- a song about renewal, about letting go of the old and embracing the new. 

No comments: