Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Slight Return

At this point, it had to be really.
For those who don't already know, "Slight Return" was The Bluetones' biggest hit. Only Babylon Zoo kept it off the number one spot back in 1996, and it played a large part in Expecting to Fly briefly interrupting a very long Oasis run at number one in the album charts. It also still gets regular-ish airings on alternative leaning radio station, in common with precisely none of their other songs.

What with never having heard of The Bluetones before 2000, I didn't know any of this at the time, so I'm missing out on a big wave of nostalgia and as a result at a certain remove from this song as it's widely treated. There are certainly other singles of theirs that would cheer me up more with (hypothetical) radio plays as a result, but there's no way I'm going to begrudge "Slight Return" its status.

In some ways it's actually not the most obvious hit. The chorus is catchy, but no more so than "Bluetonic" and "Cut Some Rug", whose tunes are a lot more forceful and instant. Lyrically it is relatable but remarkably low key - never has an anthem been so careful and qualified from the title on downwards. 'I'm coming home'... '(but just for a short while)'. In the long run it's actually the thoughtful realism behind its gentle reassurance that makes it work, a friendly hand on the shoulder that recognises that there are problems but takes them down in size. That takes a good few listens to sink in though.

What makes all the difference immediately is that none of those other songs featured the sunniest, jangliest guitar tone ever, or made use of it so fantastically. From the single bright, expectant opening chord that hangs in space for just long enough onwards, it provides all the hook you need and more. They know it, too. That's made clearest is how they brilliantly end the thing - there's no drawn out repetition of the song's lyrical refrain to finish, but instead a return to riffing on its guitar patterns, turning at last into a completely unqualified celebration.

Finally, it's probably sensible to mention that other band whose ghost occasionally looms over us at this point, as the only song that comes close to sounding like this, and just possibly an influence, is The Stone Roses' "Waterfall" (The La's or Delays being close but a juncture further away in style). Now, Ian Brown's voice got to be the butt of way more jokes than it deserved, especially coming from people who would laud the Gallaghers, but for all its other strengths it's fair to say that he could never have done justice to a "Slight Return" however good a backing he was given.

Video: "Slight Return"