“I love the ties that bind” sings Gerard Langley on ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!” from “Welcome, Stranger!”, the Blue Aeroplanes’ twelfth studio album. It’s a sentiment that you can also apply very much to the band in 2017.
There’s a distinct feeling of renewal about the record, surprising from a band with a near 36 years career. In part that may be down to the fact that the ten songs have been written by Gerard with new writing partners (mainly Mike Youe and Bec Jevons) but they’ve also never before deployed their formidable guitar arsenal in such a forthright manner on record.
Yet despite all this, the album retains a sense of familiarity as almost every song displays a connection with the band’s previous work.
Packed with short(ish) songs which may initially sound quite straightforward, “Welcome, Stranger!” reveals unexpected depths with repeated plays. And, believe me, this one has had multiple repeated plays.
A number of songs, such as ‘Elvis Festival’ – the first recording from the album to surface – are based around chunky, staccato riffs, whilst opening track ‘Looking for X’s on a Map’ (a stand-out on the last tour) mixes its grinding riffs with breakneck choruses.
The urgency of the album is emphasised by the pounding glam rock drumbeat intro of the afore-mentioned ‘Dead Tree! ..” (the first single from the album) kicking in without a pause at the end of ‘Retro Moon’ with the song’s momentum further boosted by a dancing guitar line.
Blue Aeroplanes in Glasgow – December 2013
Curiously the most out and out pop moment on the record is a cover, although it took the arrival of the CD and a check of the writing credits to convince me that ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ is not an Aeroplanes original. Beyond the melody and some of the lyrics almost nothing remains of the original Shanks & Bigfoot garage pop tune. Instead the BAs have given the song a complete reworking and the joyous, effervescent guitar line has become the song’s main hook.
The band’s more expansive side is largely restricted to side two of the record. ‘Nothing Will Ever Happen in the Future’ can be traced from the same lineage as ‘What It Is’ from ‘Swagger’, albeit with more muscle in the production. Meanwhile the closing ‘Poetland’ is a condensed epic that on another album may have stretched (probably gloriously) past 6 minutes, although in keeping with the economy of the record, here it doesn’t even reach the five minute mark.
Without doubt this is the band’s most direct album which acts as a superb introduction to the world of the Aeroplanes. And for long term fans, the ties will surely bind as strongly as ever.
A classic from start to finish.
Here’s another great track from the record:
“Welcome, Stranger!” is available to purchase from the band’s Pledge Music site or at any of the remaining dates on the UK tour which reaches Edinburgh tomorrow and Glasgow on Sunday:
|14 Jan 2017||The Voodoo Rooms||Edinburgh||Tickets|
|15 Jan 2017||Stereo||Glasgow||Tickets|
|18 Jan 2017||Rescue Rooms||Nottingham||Tickets|
|19 Jan 2017||Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath||Birmingham||Tickets|
|20 Jan 2017||Harlow Square||Harlow||Tickets|
|21 Jan 2017||O2 Academy, Islington||London||Tickets|
|25 Jan 2017||The Cellar||Oxford||Tickets|
|26 Jan 2017||Leadmill||Sheffield||Tickets|
|27 Jan 2017||Norwich Arts Centre||Norwich||Tickets|
|28 Jan 2017||Audio Brighton||Brighton||Tickets|
|29 Jan 2017||Cavern||Exeter||Tickets|