Thursday, 21 June 2007

Down At The Reservoir

It struck me, seeing "Down At The Reservoir" live for the rest time a few months ago, that it's by some distance the most Britpop thing that The Bluetones have ever recorded. That needs some clarifying, obviously, since Britpop can mean many things to people, from Mansun to Pulp to Elastica to Starsailor (if you're American, anyway). I mean the particular type of jovial, brash guitar pop that captured a moment and then was gone, all but completely ceasing to exist by the time this decade rolled around. It's "Country House", it's "Alright", or at least it's "Staying Out For The Summer". Needless to say, it's relentlessly bouncy.

The rich, layered guitar jangle of their debut is replaced with a hard, naggingly simple riff over which all the world (from, er, 'washed out bum' to 'gay bourgeois') is invited to come hang out in amazingly guileless fashion. If Mark Morriss has noticed the irony when he sings "You need your medicine to help the sugar down", he's definitely not showing it. The middle 8 is syrupy enough to make your teeth hurt. And there's a definite thrill to be had from the carefree innocence of it all.

Thing is, that trick only works when you're winning. In the middle of their set, it came off excellently because people were on their side, besides enjoying themselves way too much to mind that the song means nothing whatsoever. By the time that Return To The Last Chance Saloon was released in 1998, though, Britpop of this sort was well on its way out, replaced by Embrace and The Verve and "Song 2". The Bluetones had never really had anything as dumb or celebratory as this before, and now they did but most definitely weren't winning. So it was never even worth putting out as a single. In which context (or even knowing about it in retrospect) it seems just a little sad, a song that only makes proper sense as a communal singalong but would barely even make that status. Whenever I see the band dismissed out of hand in print, this song is how I tend to picture the critic as seeing them and while I wouldn't mind future setlist appearances, it's not a song I seek out on record.

That's a while since a really positive entry now, huh? Onto some really good stuff for the next two days, though...


Chris Brown said...

I remember reading a little track-by-track feature on the album at the time it came out, where the band claimed that this track was only put on the album to balance the second side because the rest of it was so moody. I paraphrase, of course.

Maybe it's because I've only heard the song in the knowledge of that, but I never thought it was worth it.

PS, great blog.

Iain F said...

Thanks, both on the compliment and a useful piece of information! Return To The Last Chance Saloon's tracklisting does seem a bit of a mess in general compared to the others and hearing about that as well reinforces the idea that they probably overthought it.