Sunday, March 04, 2007

I Know That We’ve Been Here Before

The Bluetones - Bluetonic
The Bluetones - Glad To See Y'Back Again?

It was only recently that I reacquainted myself with some old friends. We hadn’t heard much from each other since the late 90s, when we really were in each other’s pockets. Way back then we shared some seriously good times, and they really meant a lot to me. Eventually we drifted apart, as people do. It was an amicable departure though to be honest. They went one way, I went another, and that was that. Things change. Now though, probably because of nostalgia and a hankering for those times when things just seemed better (even though they probably weren’t), we've reconnected.

We first met when I was an impressionable teenager who was more into indie music than into trying to get a girl to hold hands (or whatever it was they were doing) at the back of the school bus. Britpop was in it's infancy. Now it would be hard to say that The Bluetones are my favourite ever Britpop band, as that is not strictly true, but I was, and am now again, immensely fond of them.

A long since lost live tape, recorded in very poor quality from an evening show on Radio 1, had been in my bulky Walkman for weeks when 'Are You Blue Or Are You Blind?' was released. I snaffled it up and the musical friendship between The Bluetones and myself began. I liked the smooth, yet quirky and sprightly nature of their songs, and I loved Mark Morris’s voice; all light and carefree one minute, but with a sinister lyrical sound the next.

The debut LP, 'Expecting To Fly' is still a jewel within the haystack of uninspiring albums released by a host of their other Britpop contemporaries. It remains one of only a few albums that I have deliberately paid money to own on more than one format; the vinyl still safely on the shelf, but the cassette vanished, along with the slightly beaten up Vauxhall Astra Belmont that was my first car I listened to it in. Mani proclaiming them as “The Bluetone Roses” was hardly going to deter me from loving this band, and mentioning the Squire-esque guitar work on parts of the album, from me is a compliment, rather than a stick to bash the band with.

The B-Sides too, especially on those early singles, were quality. 'Driftwood' (from 'Are You Blue...'), 'Glad To See Y’Back Again?' ('Bluetonic') and 'Don’t Stand Me Down' (from 'Slight Return', their biggest single, which reached number 2 in 1995) all show worthy tunesmanship, and it should be noted, are available on their best-of album, 'A Rough Outline: The Singles & B-Sides ‘95-‘03'. 'Marblehead Johnson' was the last Bluetones single I can remember buying. It was a good little tune, but in truth I bought it as much out of loyalty and for the Bill Hicks reference as anything else. Just as Britpop was booming, I was moving on, so The Bluetones and I didn’t see much of each other for a while.

Time catches up with us all eventually though, and late last year, feeling old and subconsciously searching for my youth, I had a listen to some records I hadn’t played in years, and that is where I met The Bluetones all over again. Hearing that first LP once more, prompted me to explore the internet, and I was pleased to learn that The Bluetones are still ticking along nicely without me. Released on Cooking Vinyl, a self-titled album came out last year, and rather good it is too. OK, sure, it's never going to be how it was back then, but old friends it seems, no matter how old, will always be friends at the end of the day.

The Bluetones website
Great Bluetones fansite
The Bluetones at My Space
Buy The Bluetones from Townsend Records