Saturday, August 29, 2009
The Twelve Tasks Of ToffeeBoy #8 – The Blue Nile
Well what do you know? You wait simply ages for a Task Of ToffeeBoy and then three come along within a few minutes of each other – relatively speaking, that is. What’s more, against all odds, I’ve now caught up with myself – the eighth task arriving as it does, in the eighth month. And boy, have I got a good ‘un for you this month?
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of The Blue Nile. ‘Why weird and wonderful?’ I hear you ask. Because, dear reader, what other band can you name that have been together for 28 years with an unchanged line-up? OK, but what other band can you name who have released only four albums in that time – resulting in an average output of just over one track per year? OK, but what other band can you name that have consistently produced pop music of the highest quality over a period of nearly 3 decades without ever ‘selling out’ or releasing music for any other reason than that they want to? Huh? Eh? What’s that you say? No, I didn’t think you’d have an answer to that.
28 years - four albums: A Walk Across The Rooftops (1983), Hats (1989), Peace At Last (1996) and, most-recently High (2004). A total of 33 tracks: throw in the odd B-side and we’re still only just over the 40 mark. But what a body of work these 40 or so gems represent! Haunting melodies, soaring vocals, lyrics expressing sadness and loss and failed relationships – yet at the same time enveloping you with a sense of hope: a sense that life is worth living after all; that you might just have to work that little bit harder and perhaps look in unexpected places for the beautiful things that life can throw your way.
Research has shown that the average Blue Nile song is set at 2:30 in the morning. There is a surprisingly large number of references in the songs to such things as chimney pots, trumpets and fire engines. Oh, and trains. Plenty of trains. Late night trains, naturally. And it’s raining. And it’s more than likely that his baby just gone left him.
But don’t let that put you off. If you care to investigate the tracks I’ve selected for your edification, I can guarantee you passionate, heartfelt music. To the uninitiated, it might sound soulless – but it’s anything but. I don’t know a singer whose voice matches his bands’ music better than Paul Buchanan’s does The Blue Nile’s. There’s a moment at about 4:10 on Let’s Go Out Tonight when Paul sings ‘Baby, be my baby’ and the way he leans on the word ‘be’ and holds it for a nano-second longer than you’d expect, sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. It sounds corny, I know (as indeed it does when he utters the immortal line ‘Come on girl’ at about 3:13 in Tomorrow Morning) but somehow, in Paul Buchanan’s hands it works – and it feels like heaven. Well, to me it does, and I know that in DarceysDad I have at least one supporter for this particular task.
Interestingly (well it’s interesting to me, pal!), the very first song I ever nominated on Readers Recommend (now there's an idea for a thread), way back in January 2008, was a Blue Nile recording. The theme was Songs About Trains and the track I chose was, logically enough, From A Late Night Train. Of course, as a newbie, I had no idea of the protocol of these things, and it turned out that a certain BeltwayBandit, of this parish, had already nominated the same song: a successful nomination as it turned out, and The Blue Nile’s only RR hit to date. I hope it’s not too late to say ‘make mine a dond, then.’
Five years have passed since the release of High so I guess we’re due another album any year now – almost certainly sometime during the next decade. There’s nothing on the band’s official website but there has been some live activity over the past few years so, who knows, something may be imminent – a word which, with The Blue Nile, has to be considered in relative terms. I live in hope and I know beyond doubt that when they do produce album number five, I’ll like it. In fact, I’m prepared to go on public record here and now as saying that I’ll love it!
Right, a bit of house keeping then it’s over to the music. If you buy only one Blue Nile album, make it Hats. But there are only four of them – so why not buy them all. If you listen to just one track, make it Downtown Lights.
Edit: I've made a couple of changes to the playlist - it was sounding a bit too unremittingly gloomy to me (and apparently DsD agrees). Too much shade for our liking - let there be light ...
Tinseltown In The Rain
Let’s Go Out Tonight
God Bless You Kid
From A Late Night Train
Because Of Toledo
She Saw The World
I Would Never