Thursday, January 26, 2006

Number 35: Turin Brakes

Average Man (Source SOURCD 085)
Chart debut: 7th Jun 2003

Writers:Olly Knights/Gale Paridjanian

One of the great lost hits of recent years, I think. As the follow-up to their Top 5 smash 'Pain Killer' (inevitably revisited in acoustic form on the CD single here) and third single off the much-reissued Ether Song album, this track possibly suffered from unrealistic expectations. Nonetheless, it deserved to make more of an impact than it did. Indeed, it's one of the records that helped give me the germ of the idea for this blog.
Although the album as a whole is coloured by Tony Hoffer's glossy LA production and the keyboards of David Palmer (not to be confused with the former member of Jethro Tull, who is now a woman), this particular track is a little closer to the earlier Turin Brakes sound, played largely on acoustic guitars with a fine slide guitar riff and their trademark vocal harmonies.
The lyrics are in a way somewhat cynical and partially self-deprecating: "If I was a farmer instead of a faker/If I was realer and not just some raker", seems like a questioning of the artist's worth in society, but as the song deepens, the perspective shifts and widens. It's a song about the compromises people have to make, and the slyly ambiguous tone draws you into it - this isn't the normal "be yourself" cliche, despite having been recorded in LA, but neither is it a complete ode to conformity; it's about getting older and realising that not quite everything is possible after all. When they chime in the chorus "Have another drink my son, enjoy another cigarette 'cause it's time you realised you're just an average man" [NB The Hit Parade does not recommend the abuse of alcohol and tobacco] they're close enough to it themselves not to be loftily patronising. The middle eight thunders "And if this is darkness..." before slinking back to the comfort of the chorus, which is witty and deathly serious at the same time. In summation, this is all a bit dark and complex for overnight success, but it's got a catchy enough tune.

Official website:
YouTube if you want to: video
Where to get it: As I pointed out earlier, there are at least five permutations of the Ether Song album. Mine is the initial double-CD in the gatefold sleeve, but I've also selected for your pleasure the mid-price CD with the later single '5 Mile' added and the classy double LP.

No comments: