Monday, August 06, 2007

Singles going steady 8: The Bluetones


This installment in my trawl through my old CD singles is a bit more of a blowing-off-dust job than most. Although these singles are generally out of playing action, most of the tracks featured on the blog so far have had a few spins over the years. These ones however, have been untouched for over ten years.

I’m talking about The Bluetones, and it feels kind of funny to be listening to them again. I have three singles from the ‘golden period’ of 1995-96 and I’m not sure if my love for these has as much to do with hazy nostalgia as it does the quality of the tunes. I’m trying to look on them more objectively and think “if these songs were just released today by a new band, would I think they’re any good?” But it’s an impossible task.

For me, these singles mean Glasgow 1995-96, a particularly happy time in my life. Finishing my undergraduate degree and starting my postgrad one. A sunny summer. Good friends. Just general good times. There was also the Bluetones supporting fellow breaking new band Supergrass at King Tut’s. Youthful optimism and the rise of Britpop, which at the time seemed like a very good thing.

And The Bluetones sure surfed that Britpop wave. The first release was Are You Blue or Are You Blind? in the summer of 1995, a short burst of less-than-three-minutes indie-pop finery, and perfectly set out what the Bluetones were about. Oddly though, it didn’t make their debut album Expecting to Fly. What did though was the next single Bluetonic, which continued in a similar vein, and had just the right amount of jangle that I required at the time. Early ’96 saw the release of Slight Return, the one that broke it for them – going into the charts at number 2 and introducing them to a whole bigger audience.

But 1997 saw the wane of Britpop, and early 1998 was probably a bad time for the release of The Bluetones’ second album, Return to the Last Chance Saloon. It was poorly received critically, and didn’t do so well commercially either. That time also saw my arrival in London, along with as a large-scale departure from all things indie and jangly, as I discovered clubbing and the delights of breakbeats, drum ‘n’ bass, techno and hip-hop. So I left the Bluetones behind, never to explore any further. So it’s a bit of a pleasant surprise to me to find out that they’re still going, having released further albums in 2000, 2003 and last year. Not only that, they’re still touring and even playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November. Maybe they’re hoping that old former fans like me think this is a reunion and jump at the chance (this is the year for reunions after all), or perhaps the fact that they’ve never really gone away means that there are 2000 hardcore Bluetones fans out there to fill the Empire.

I don’t really know, and to be honest, I’m not that bothered. I mean, good luck to them and all that, but times have changed. I’ve moved on to other things, other music. And most of all, The Bluetones for me have a special but particular place in my musical history. Just that one debut album, and these singles, along with the memories are enough for me. And as much as I can extricate them from the context, these are great songs. Just about as good as jangly indie-pop gets.

Here are the singles:


Plus a bonus of one of the b-sides, which despite the title is pretty good.


1 comment:

Matthew said...

I was in Glasgow myself that very Summer and bought these very singles. It was a good year in general, that one.

And give the Bluetones some credit. I've never been a huge fan myself, but for them to carry on so doggedly while Britpop crumbled around them deserves some applause.

They remind me of Gene in a way - really promising single with some great b-sides, but never seemed to quite get it together in terms of releasing a great album.