Guillemots – Through the Windowpane

I mentioned Guillemots back in December after seeing them supporting Rufus Wainwright at the Sage Gateshead. And at last, here’s their first album. There are two version of this on sale – a “limited edition” in a digipak which has some videos on it, and the normal one in the usual plastic jewel case. Oddly, as the band mention on their site, the normal one has the “special edition” sticker, and there is nothing on the digipak to suggest that there are any extras included. Anyway, either way it’s an excellent album[1], which gets the Losing it[1] seal of approval. Not that we actually have a seal, you understand. It’s one of those figure of speech thingies.

Anyway, enough of the introductory nonsense, and on with the review. The twelve songs here expand the live sound, with lots of additional musicians, and with Fyfe’s voice coming through in glorious clarity. I’ll just mention some of the highlights:

Made-up Lovesong #43

A beautifully silly, more than a little goofy love song (as the title might lead you to believe). As fine an expression of the transformation love can perform:

I love you through sparks and shining dragons I do
Now there’s poetry in an empty coke can

You got me off the sofa
Just sprang out of the air
The best things come from nowhere
I can’t believe you care

Trains to Brazil

Now this is interesting. On first, second, and quite possibly twenty-fifth hearing, this comes across as a catchy, bouncy, life-affirming little number, tinged with a little regret for a lost relationship. And it works beautifully on that level. But if you pay attention to the lyrics, it’s revealed as something altogether more complex:

It’s one o’clock on a Friday morning
I’m trying to keep my back from the wall
The prophets and their bombs have had another success
And I’m wondering why we bother at all

Which give the lines

Well I’ll still think of you on cold winter mornings, darling
They’ll still remind me of when we were at school
When they never could have persuaded me that lives like yours
Were in the hands of these erroneous fools

a much greater impact. The song is about being grateful you’re alive while you’re here. As much defiant as joyful, and all the better for it. And enough to make at least one old cynic stop and think.

We’re Here

Another uplifting song -more or less a musical version of “enjoy life, it’s not a rehearsal”.

Blue Would Still Be Blue

Now this is the song that Fyfe played solo at the Sage, and it gets the same treatment here. Voice and minimal keyboard accompaniment, which shows off Fyfe’s vocal talents and draws the listener in to a deeply honest unrequited love song:

It’s not raining cats, and it’s not raining dogs, and pigs are not flying, or turning the cogs
And the sun has no hat on whenever it shines, and I’ve never seen a cat live nine lives
And I’m not in a film, and this isn’t a play, and I saw no aliens landing today
I just saw you, and thought of me

And I waste so much time thinking of time when I should be out there claiming what’s mine
Cause any day I could die, just like I was born, and this bit in the middle is what I’m here for
And I just want to fill it all with joy

But if I had you, well there’d still be night and day
And we’d all still have to pay
Blue would still be blue
But things would just be easier with you

Which is something of the flip side of the more “up” songs on the album – wanting to be happy, wanting to enjoy life, but knowing that something – someone – is missing, and that makes it so much harder…

Sao Paulo

And finally, the album ends with a delightfully over-the-top, twelve minute piece of musical lunacy that includes (as described on the liner notes) “a very big orchestra of strings, wind and percussion”. And they’re not kidding. We’re talking bells, and I don’t mean handbells[2]. We’re talking the sort of big loud bells that you get in the 1812 Overture. :bouncy: There may also be a kitchen sink in there somewhere, and if not, it’s probably an accidental omission.

There’s a Latin-themed intro, vaguely reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s “Town Called Big Nothing”, but only very vaguely. Then Fyfe starts to sing a sad song about lost love, while the orchestra gradually builds…

See, I’ve lost love in many places
Not least the streets of Sao Paulo
One friend especially I did make there
A tenth floor window took her home

Sometimes I could cry for miles

Then things start to get more, well, dramatic. The production gets bigger, the orchestra forget about all that nonsense about “restraint”, and Fyfe goes into total wig-out mode:

Thrown across the water, thrown across the water, thrown across the water like a stone
Get me a doctor, get me a doctor who will get rid of my bones
Get me a lover, get me a lover who will leave my head alone
Get me a soldier, get me a soldier who will fight me a pointless war
Get me an exit, get me an exit, I need a window or a door
Thrown across the water, thrown across the water, thrown across the water like a stone
Get me a lawyer, get me a lawyer who will sue the world for me
Get me a person, get me a person who isn’t me
Cause I’m getting tired, I’m getting tired of my stupid little face
I don’t belong here, don’t belong here, don’t belong in this horse race
Thrown across the water, thrown across the water, thrown across the water like a stone

All of which builds to the demented 1812-style bells bit, before finally fading out with some more subdued keyboard work.

Quite mad, quite wonderful. It’s what your repeat button was made for.

And those are just some of the best bits. The rest of the album is pretty damn excellent, too.

[1] Since I’ve been subscribing to Napster, I haven’t been buying a lot of CDs. This was a rare exception, and yes, I got the one with the videos :grin:
[2] Hi Michèle :wave: