I’ve been meaning to talk about this reissue for a while now, but intertia and lack of tuits got in the way. And then I was distracted by the more recent reissue of If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song. But here we are on a sunday morning, and I’ve got both the time and the inclination to get on with it.
Second albums are notoriously tricky things. In many cases, a band’s first album will be the product of years of songwriting, rehearsing and performing. If it’s moderately successful, there is then a demand for something new, and err, right now before people forget who you are, OK? This can lead to a dip in songwriting quality, and a general lack of interest in the band’s future. But when your band is led by Ian McNabb, this is less of a problem. You see, Ian can write songs.
The second Icies’ album opens with one of the man’s finest songs – the glorious Hollow Horse, which serves as much as a statement of intent as anything:
We’ll be as we are, when all the fools who doubt us fade away..
Other highlights include Seven Horses, and the distinctly odd Rapids, which includes such lines as:
Vagrant suspicious and quite out of breath
Stumbles into a town where the people wear frowns
Picks up a paper, the pages are blank
They say, “No news today, no more writers around”
I sing this song with my tongue in my cheek
For the jilted, the jaundiced, the angry young men
Who somehow believe the status quo changes
With juvenile slogans in downmarket rags
Either deeply profound, or deeply bonkers. Or being, Ian McNabb, quite possibly both. As ever, it all comes together very nicely indeed, with songs that sneak into your brain and pop up at unexpected moments. This is an album I’d recommend to anyone who has the slightest tendency towards appreciating good songwriting.
But there’s more! This is, of course, a properly compiled expanded version of the album, with two extra CDs. The first extra disc contains longer versions of some of the album tracks, otherwise hard to find b-side tracks, which include such gems as a cover of Ian’s idol Neil Young’s Mr Soul, demos, and a long version of the quite wonderful song that wasn’t on any of the original albums – When It All Comes Down, as near to being the definitive Ian McNabb song:
Stay here with me, tide me over
Not sure where I’m bound
Love is surely all that matters
When it all comes down
Or if you’d like to hear it:
And there’s still more! The third disc contains a nice collection of bits and bobs – a Peel Session, tracks recorded for the Janice Long show in 1985, live tracks and more.
Another essential reissue, buy it now.
 For the benefit of those not familiar, for many years, legendary DJ John Peel used to get people to record tracks in a small BBC studio to be played on air. The Peel Sessions include pretty much anyone who was anyone, and lots of people who weren’t , but got that chance at exposure anyway.