I’ve been to more funerals, or heard about the passing of people who I know, in 2022 than in any other year. And none of the deaths have been COVID related, It’s an indication I suppose of my own age and those of some of my peers. It’s led to me thinking about this on a few occasions recently.
The bar’s busier than it should be on a weekday afternoon as the door swings shut behind me, but I’m the only one wearing a suit. No-one seems to notice my entrance though, I suppose they must be used to mourners in the nearest pub to the crematorium. I don’t think I could’ve coped with the wake, I had to make a quick exit to be alone with my memories, I was sick of hearing everyone else’s. I buy a pint and sit down.
“See, the trouble with you is that you’re top heavy”, said the tailor as he measured me up. They don’t get asked much for three-piece suits these days, so my choice was limited. I went for all-purpose black, or ‘charcoal grey’ as he called it. Looks black to me. This is the second time I’ve worn it, the first was a wedding and there’s a christening next week, so I might as well get my money’s worth. Birth, love and death: the only reasons to get dressed up. I loosen my tie.
Halfway through my pint and a text message from John says he’s waiting outside, sooner than I’d expected. I down what’s left and step out into the bright afternoon and get in the car. I look up and see the pub’s once brilliant copper roof has oxidized over the years, and it’s now a dull, pastel green. Everything’s getting older
mp3: Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top
Astonishingly beautiful, haunting and poignant. I well-up every single time.
From 2011’s Everything’s Getting Older, which was deservedly named winner of the Scottish Album of the Year in June 2012.
I’m not a fan of Record Store Day. It started out with the best of intentions but before long became another way for real music fans to be ripped off. Not necessarily by any small/independent record stores or the sorts of labels who supply much of the stock to such stores, but I’m more thinking about the majors who jumped on the bandwagon and issued all sorts of product for stupid prices, and in doing so tied up pressing plants at the expense of the smaller labels.
Oh and not forgetting the greedy fucks who got into the habit of going along on RSD for the sole purpose of hoovering up bundles of rare and in demand releases to then shove them on the internet within a matter of hours at vastly inflated prices. The sort of greedy fucks who ticket tout……
Anyways, this is probably the last thing I bought on the actual RSD and it was only because at the time I had everything ever released on vinyl by The Twilight Sad and I was also intrigued to hear what Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat would bring to a Twilight Sad number.
Limited edition of 500 on 7″ vinyl on Fat Cat Records.
mp3 : Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat – Alphabet
mp3 : The Twilight Sad – (If You) Keep Me In Your Heart
One thing I’ll say. Both acts make the songs sound as if they are their own rather than covers. But both ultimately are not a patch on the originals.
In June 2012, before a packed audience at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, it was announced that the winner of the inaugural Scottish Album of The Year Award was Everything’s Getting Older by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat.
It was a hugely deserved and popular win as it is a quite extraordinary record, combining the talents of one of our premier jazz pianists with our modern-day indie bard who had come to our attention via Arab Strap. The allmusic review captures it well:-
Somehow an Aidan Moffat album starting out with a piano part courtesy of collaborator and longtime Glasgow music fixture Bill Wells that could almost be Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ “Endless Love” seems weirdly appropriate.
It doesn’t quite stay like that, but Wells’ shift to include brushed drums and acoustic bass atmospheres doesn’t change the fundamental sense of the duo finding a split between elegant melancholy in and of itself and, courtesy of Moffat’s lyrics, often vivisecting what the ideas of it could be. It’s something Moffat’s long been interested in, so to have the first song with vocals, “Let’s Stop Here,” tackle ideas of teenage fantasy, adult possibility, and rejecting a one-off experience while still struggling with the idea of it, is only apt.
Throughout, Wells’ arrangements are excellently matched with Moffat’s lyrics and performances song for song — his rhythmic, softly altering piano part on “The Copper Top” is stellar, a steady backing for Moffat’s short story in miniature, and just one element of a lovely piece that builds up to a conclusion led by muted trumpet. That it’s immediately followed by the rhythm-heavy click and punch of “Glasgow Jubilee” — a chance for Moffat and Wells to do their own turn on breaks and MC’ing — seems right, especially given the tale of a slew of boozing, shagging, and more. Thus this exchange between a pickup of the narrator’s and the narrator himself: “Your lyrics are the ramblings of a lonely solipsist”/I said, “I’m playing Sunday night, shall I put you on the list?”
“Ballad of the Bastard” couldn’t be more of an on-point song title from Moffat either, while his capturing of a combination of self-pity and exculpatory explanations manages the neat trick of being both attractively compelling and utterly loathsome. Moffat’s occasional spoken word delivery is in full effect as ever, splitting the difference nicely on “Cages,” taking the full story-telling stance on “Dinner Time” against a backing that couldn’t be more jazzily film noir — unsurprisingly appropriate given the story of a somewhat unsettled visit home.
There are moments of light breaking through here and there, as in the minute-long jaunty rollick of “A Short Song to the Moon” — a song of praise and thanks for said heavenly object for putting up with the narrator in all his moods — that ends with “Who needs the troubles of love/When you’re still glowing above?”
The troubles may not be needed, but Moffat and Wells both deserve credit for finding ways to capture them just so.
It’s an album that I can’t recommend highly enough and in the words of the label’s MD, contains the greatest ever song released on Chemikal Underground.
mp3 : Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top
The above image has nothing at all whatsoever with today’s friend electric other than it is same as the name of the site.
Manic Pop Thrills (MPT) is the place where you will find the musings of Mike Melville, a man with who I have much in common, not least our obsessions with alternative music with Raith Rovers Football Club.
MPT is very fine blend of music, book and gig reviews. I used to post gig reviews on TVV but I stopped as I found myself not able to enjoy what I was seeing and listening to as I was too busy trying to frame the proposed review in my head. And then when it came to trying to capture the moment on-line the following day I found that the reviews were far too lengthy to be of any interest other than to those who were there. Mike however, has a great knack for it as demonstrated by this piece :-
I’ve Fallen For A Monster
Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat / R.M. Hubbert – Twa Tams, Perth – Friday 23rd November 2012
I’ve actually seen Bill and Aidan perform several times before but never as a headline act in their own right. So, last night’s show was something to look forward to.
I’d only been to the Twa Tams once before but I quite liked it’s layout. The gigs seem all to be free but there’s only about a third of the pub given over to the venue with the room with the main PA accommodating only about 100 people (although there’s a screen and secondary PA in the main room). Of course this set-up guarantees that there’s going to be people in the pub who aren’t there for the gig.
Which threatened to be a problem for R.M. Hubbert. Indeed when he started it was difficult to hear him over the chatter from the next room and I briefly worried that the whole evening might have been spoiled. But stepping closer to the speakers helped and the distraction quickly disappeared.
I’d not heard much of him before and even the descriptions of his music, to be honest, didn’t sound too enticing. Yet I actually found his guitar playing quite hypnotic and soothing and, structurally, the handful of pieces he played seemed almost post-rock with an almost drone-like approach. His half hour was over far more quickly than I thought it should have been, which was undoubtedly a good sign.
Fortunately Bill and Aidan didn’t suffer from distractions from next door as a) there were more people to hear them, and b) their set-up was actually a fair bit louder.
For some reason, every time I’ve seen them perform, it’s been in the stripped back 3 piece with Bill and Aidan enhanced by Robert on trumpet. It’s an approach which suits the tunes but this time out Aidan also played percussion throughout which changed the basic dynamic somewhat – in a good way.
The set was essentially based on the award winning LP with a B-side, a cover and, for the encore, no fewer than 3 new songs. Yet there was no feeling of over-familiarity and, despite the melancholic nature of some of the tunes, I found myself feeling quite elated by the whole show.
Maybe because they’re operating some distance away from the MPT motherload, I think I underestimate them sometimes but it’s nice to be reminder that actually the songs ARE fantastic and that seeing them played in person is a rewarding experience.
Mike makes this live review lark look so very easy but I know from bitter experience that it’s not.
He didn’t post any songs with the review, so that allows me to take advantage and include an early version of one of the standout track from the award-winning Everything’s Getting Older LP – a version only made available via the luxury boxset
mp3 : Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top (Take 1)
Ever since Google took down the original TVV blog this time last year, I’ve tried not to link to any videos on YouTube, but I really do have to draw your attention to the promo made to accompany the final version of The Copper Top. One of the best and most memorable ever made.
Here’s what Scotland’s modern-day national bard wrote in a magazine article this time three years ago:-
Every couple of years or so around this time, my city likes to remind everyone that somewhere in Glasgow Cathedral lies a box with a few bones that used to be part of Saint Valentine. Of course, this almost certainly isn’t true – the Irish, among others, lay claim to the remains, and then there’s the fact that no-one can agree on exactly which one of the Saints named Valentine we’re supposed to be celebrating every February 14th. It’s really just an attempt to remind everyone to go out and spend money on hideous tat and splash out on restaurants they normally couldn’t afford in the ‘City Of Love’; the first attempt to boost the retail economy after the January clear-outs.
Perhaps that’s a little too cynical – I’m not entirely against some elements of Valentine’s Day. For instance, I think it can be great fun for kids, if also somewhat heartbreaking and emotionally scarring. I remember pulling a hat over my face in an attempt to anonymously post a romantic missive through Vivien Gilles’s front door when I was about 8 – but someone saw the whole thing, and I was consistently ridiculed for my secret desire until a class member was found doing something even more pathetic and the attention turned.
Anyway, the song below – and available for download for your listening pleasure – is called City Of Love. Half of it used to be a poem I wrote for a spoken word album, but then I added a couple of choruses so I could sing it live, and it all seemed to make sense.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Suckers.
CITY OF LOVE
Saturday night’s the night for fun,
but where’s the boy that made your make-up run?
The pubs emptied out, you pushed past on the street,
but where was the guy that made your green eyes greet?
Were your knee-high boots and tiny skirt
all for the boy that made your heart hurt?
Did the big hoop earrings and new hair-do above
have little effect on the boy that you love?
The streets are full of broken hearts,
of useless pricks and stupid tarts;
the city’s filled with love to save
as Saint Valentine spins in his grave.
Did he turn up late in your favourite place
and throw his last drink right in your face?
Could he tell something’s wrong, could he tell you were lying
before he decided there’s no point in trying?
Did you make a mistake, give in to your lust
and prove yet again you’re not someone to trust?
Did you think about begging, pleading and kneeling?
If so, i think i might know how you’re feeling.
Tonight we’ll both get our own way –
there’s no-one else to have their say.
In filthy sheets we both shall lie,
and do our best to let love die.
mp3 : Aidan John Moffat – City Of Love
And while I’m here:-
mp3 : Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Powers and The Glory of Love
It’s a track with a difference. I think most of you will hate it for one reason or another. It came about after some drunken exchanges on twitter in which Aidan was challenged to create a medley of three different 80s songs he proclaimed his affecrion for. Each of the songs is entitled The Power of Love and were originally recorded by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Jennifer Rush and Huey Lewis & The News. To top it all off, there’s a fourth song thrown in – The Glory Of Love by Peter Cetera (which I admit I had to look up and learn that it was a huge hit in 1986 – I genuinely can’t recall the song) with some crazy backing vocals and harmonies from Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub.