1. Skull Beneath The SkinAm I a serial killer or a story teller? Well, unsurprisingly, I see myself as a story teller. After watching one too many episodes of Dexter I decided to write a song from the perspective of one of his victims. Once you dive into the murky mind of a killer, you have to commit. Watch out for the blistering Hammond solo by Jonny Dyke and Baz Warne (of Stranglers fame) on guitar. You can watch behind the scenes on this Youtube video. And do tell me where the bodies are buried.
2. Grand RevealOne minute I was absent mindedly playing a blues riff in the studio, the next minute we were recording the song. Once the lines and melody "I am older than I look, but I'm younger than I feel." came to me, I knew it was a song and not just a jam. Look out for the guitar solo by Kim Murray, who plays lead guitar in the band. You can see him play the take on this Youtube video. In my mind's eye Grand Reveal is sung by the seasoned veteran observing the young folk running wild, wishing he were young again but understanding how little the young know about anything (yet). I cannot think where the inspiration came from ....
3. War To Begin"You can spend your whole life and never see the light, because the stars are too bright." The opening lines were the first written and they are what the song is about. In an outcome obsessed world it is hard to keep focused on what you do rather than what you get, and it easy to be distracted, disheartened and downright depressed by the success of others. Welcome to the war.
4. AmazingI often cast myself as the observer commenting on absurdities and twisting words to play with ideas. Not this time. Everything about Amazing is simple and naive. It is about loss, and someone at a loss - no commentary, no observation, no ironic twist. Baz Warne added some howling guitar to the play out to complete the twist of the knife.
5. Giving It All AwayThe song makes the simple observation that we are defined by what we have lost rather by what we have. I had been sitting on the chorus for a while but it had a very different and complicated verse attached. Ed Cox, an irritatingly young and talented musician, passed through the studio and pointed out that most of the verse chords were in fact unnecessary. I simplified the song and Jarrod Pizzata (drums), Baz Warne (guitar riff) and Jonny Dyke (piano) worked out the rest. I then added the harmonium to the pre-chorus and we were done.
6. The MurdererI stumbled on the metronomic guitar riff and it suggested time passing. It was a short hop from there to the notion that we spend our lives killing time. This was the last track we recorded and Catherine Marks (who produced Man On The Ground) joined Jarrod Pizzata (co-producer of the album, drummer extraordinaire in the band) and me in the studio. We bought a couple of wind up robots to add sound effects, wrote soaring string parts, encouraged Bex Reichwald (who sings in the band) to be as operatic as possible and threw the kitchen sink at the track. The result is three minutes of mayhem from the soundtrack to an imaginary Tim Burton film. You can watch Jarrod play the fool on this Youtube video!
7. Forgive Me YetNever start an argument you cannot win. Unless of course you want to turn it into a comic song! It was not too difficult to conjure up the mindset of a mystified man who has no idea what he has done wrong. The argument at the start of the song was recorded in one take with Bex ranting in response to my question as to whether or not she could pick me up in the car. Look out for the inspired drunken bass playing by Eddie Hoffman, who plays bass in the band.
8. Girl On The RoofA simple song about a girl on a roof! It was written in Los Angeles while sitting on the roof garden of a hotel with a pool and a bar. It could have been about any of the girls on the roof, all of whom had their heads firmly in the clouds.
9. More Than I Can SayThis is a song for anyone who has lain awake at night compiling lists of things to do to their enemies. The clock, the cat and the traffic warden are the stage props for the imagined rant. The pay off is the realisation that the planned revenge is just a fantasy. I am making plans for you, just for me.
10. Doesn't CareThe song started as a rage against belief, and this is reflected the chant like persistence of the musical elements in the song. The chorus originally ended with the line "... but God, he doesn't care". The lyrics took an unexpected turn and it became clear that the song was really about a misogynist who abusively denies and disparages the beliefs and values of their partner ("God took my rib to make you Eve, so you believe, so don't take his name in vain, unless you want to give it back to me."). The chorus changed to "God knows, that I don't care" but the song title stuck. Jonny Dyke, who plays most of the keys on the album, was stolen away for a world tour by someone really important (!), and Paul Silver came in to play keys on this track. I knew I had found the perfect player for the band. Whatever I think the song is about is probably irrelevant, because on record and live it is all about the guitars! You can see me playing the guitar take used on this Youtube video.
11. To The GraveThis song is made from three originally unconnected song fragments ("To The Grave", "Bigfoot" and "Learn To Wait"). In each case every time I tried to complete the songs they seemed to lose their emotional power, so they remained stubbornly unfinished. The guitar tuning for the first section was unusual (the B was dropped to a Bb and the top E to a D). As an experiment I transposed the other fragments so that they worked with this tuning and in an instant they became three acts of a single song. My string arrangement was inspired by Randy Newman's beautiful score for the film Pleasantville - I can always dream! It was beautifully played (with multiple overdubs) by Vaughn Jones & Alexandra MacKenzie.
So that's the album. I hope I'll see all my old friends and make new ones on the road as I rewrite the songs every night with the band. Because that is where music really lives ....