ALBUM REVIEW: The Blue Aeroplanes ‘Welcome. Stranger!’

Six years on from the last LP Anti-Gravity, indie-doyens The Blue Aeroplanes return with their inimitable Bristolian ‘swagger’ and increased ‘beatsongs’.

Contemporaries) of REM-embers Stipe and Mills (1991’s seminal album Swagger a favourite) and glumbient sorrow-foragers Radiohead the past year has seen the group perform at the BBC Radio 6 Festival and play at Stewart Lee’s compered (and ultimate) All Tomorrow’s Parties. The cognoscenti never forget.

Having never split up they have avoided the heritage circuit, those cabaret cavalcades of zombified-monetised-yester-memories for the false-conscious fraternity. Veneration prevails through lasting appreciation not commercial renovation.

The band still orbit round perma-shaded-vox-poet, Gerard Langley and ear-drumsticker John Langley here augmented again by ex-Witness Gerard Starkie, bassist Chris Sharp and fresher recruits Bec Jevons (who assumes singing duties on the Belly-like ‘Skin’)and Mike Youe.

Not many acts can intone their lyrics to effective droll-speeching, however, Langley is one-such (c.f. Dexys’ Kevin Rowland, Half Man Half Biscuit’s Nigel Blackwell). His idiosyncratic and ultra-sardonic delivery is fully evidenced on opener ‘Looking for X’s on a map’ which (in spite of the incongruous and alarming apostrophe) crashes metaphorically onwards/philosophically inwards, a clanging stomper and an erudite indictment of how apps (GPSOS?) have replaced maps, technology ‘guiding’ lost (and unfound) souls instead of psychogeography delivering spiritual nourishment via innate coordinates.

A melodic sermon to arboreal death ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’ is ‘beautiful and familiar, it doesn’t change with the season’ Langley anatomising the eternal allure of decay, time may pass, but, the tree will wither no more. We will. Remember that.

Known knowns and old bones are picked at the ‘Elvis festival’ where nothing ever dies … burger with fries … a fatman walking in the rain in a stained jumpsuit’ presents vivid imagery that provides a collective and selective (mis)rembered past, one (re)evoked and ‘sung badly’ which is all part of the FUN. Isn’t it?

The operatic ‘Nothing will ever happen in the future’ sees our protagonist ‘standing on the cusp of getting it right’ resigned to the 50/50 of it ‘probably won’t work out but it might’ an(other) inept-step into a tomorrow of (un)foreseen consequences. We’ve all been there.

A sense of time and place, rhyme and space, past and present, permeates throughout this documentarian ten-track traipse though coded odes to the HERE and NOW. An ever-intellectual tour de force of nature and ultra-cerebral (mis)fortune telling where ‘two kisses is a double-cross’.

Thirty-five years in the biz, this sextet are still soaring, no ‘altitude’ sickness for these sonic-architects. Repeated listening is required for maximum effect. ADHD-ficient technonanists need not apply and waste everyone’s time.

A UK tour follows this month.

Caveat: ‘Gerard is also ‘Head of Songwriting’ at BIMM Bristol, where he was responsible for guiding the early steps of George Ezra’. So, YOU’RE to blame …