Now this is a curious beast, and despite seeming like an easy win at first it probably gave us more trouble than any other song. It was the first track we started (apart from the drums on Ripples Rock My Boat) and, as Ed kept pointing out we didn’t really know what it was. We were talking a lot about classic 80s records at the start of the session (not Tiffany etc. [Rich – “I did not subscribe to the “not Tiffany” part of this to be clear”], more Waterboys, Talking Heads, Prince, INXS) and the fact that they are just simple songs recorded boldly. This kinda led to the synth sound (Ed’s Yamaha PSS390 – the home keyboard from HELL – straight into the computer, no fx, no nothing) but actually caused us a load of problems as we tried to balance out all the different influences and sounds… the keys that are so artificial, the odd time signature, the really open vocal and lyrics, the really organic massed drums, claps and “heys” (recorded with everyone in the studio just hitting the biggest drums they could find and shouting and clapping like lunatics. And then doubling it all again)… It’s a bit like Bruce trying to sound like Duran Duran covering Arcade Fire if Arcade Fire were mad into jazz fusion. Now… where did I put the BIG musical shoe horn?
Additionally, that we didn’t track the whole song as “live” as much of the record probably caused some of our mixing/”What is this song?” issues on this one. We initially tracked a guide take of the whole band and Gary drummed to playback of that plus the click, and we had a couple of goes at the bass, in fact I think we re-tracked the bass after the rest of the “band” had been re-tracked. Hux’s guitars on this were a mixture of Katie Harkin’s (Sky Larkin) unusual Fender tele-style thing with two cutaways, and Hux’s Tele through a lovely Vox AC30.
So the verse is in 13/8 (or 6/8 with every other bar as 7/8) [Gary Stewart – “It’s definitely a bar of seven and a bar of six. That’s how I phrased it”] or some such time signature. I’m sure this will interest some of the musos out there but I’ll tell you, it’s a nightmare to play and sing at the same time and it deeply upset Ed until he just learnt the notes and could stop trying to count as having to count anything really upsets him. Again, the track started as a jam – a riff from Hux and, if memory serves, Roo (who was down to say hi) playing bass drum on it. Hilarious demo with us desperately trying to play the odd timing. Crap.
The end section where it goes to the shouts, the claps and the driving/speeding up section is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. We’re loving the idea of turning up a ratchet on a song, that you can’t step backwards, the increasing urgency. I’m not sure we’ve done it as well as some, but I’m pleased with the decision to do it. One fun thing we did on this when recording Si’s guitar (Epiphone Sheraton through Fulltone Full-Drive into Fender Blues Junior) was that for every chord clang during the end section Hux was riding the “drive” level on the Fulltone, turning it down for the “hit” and then back all the way up so the feedback just swells up and screams on as each chord fades out.
Vocally, it’s very strident on Si’s part. Very outward and forthright. We felt that the vocal felt a bit blocky so we tried to tie that together with Hux’s whisper vocals in verse 2, to counterpoint the lead vocal, and offer a different texture (“Texture, texture, texture” as James Hamilton’s music teacher used to drill into him). We did Si’s vocal the posh way first headphones, SM7 etc but it kinda just lacked something so we redid it during the mixing – Bono style… bouncing up and down with a handheld sm58 with the studio monitors full blast. Loads better. Loads easier, quicker. And loads more fun (we may do all vocals like this in the future).
Again, the song all came together with Gary’s beat (which makes the time signature strangeness disappear for me – Rich) and the end section…and let’s be honest, that sax solo which was a very late addition. Ed sent a mix over about 2 weeks before the deadline with the end section as was (Hux’s guitar, which is now pushed back and panned left, leading it) and it just wasn’t punching its weight. We’d been trying to find somewhere to put a sax solo, just for the hell of it really, and this just seemed ideal. Why not? Brilliant 2 hours recording it with Katie Hawcutt – just fantastic. Katie’s great at a) solos and b) taking direction. She responded really well to the rather non-musical instruction from the three of us who were there when we recorded it (Si, Ed, Rich) shouting nonsense at her:
- Ed – “Play some of those great ‘bebop’ notes you played on the last take.” [plays bit and is very proud of his use of the word bebop]
- Katie – “We just call them ‘out of key'”
- Rich – “Can you do that cool thing when you play it harder and it all goes of tune?”
- Katie – “Like this?’ (Does cool thing where it goes out of tune)
- Si – “Do more of those crazy mad flurry things”
- Katie – “I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I know the shit you like”
And she did. She rules. Arranged the motowny horn baps in the last verse and chorus in her head and in 2 takes and added the harmony line to the solo without so much as a blink. Made it look easy….
Lyrically it’s about a place we know which tries to mask its decay with “concrete and chrome”. It could have been so good. Maybe it still can!
Si (and Rich) (and Ed x) (and Gary)