Sunday, 21 August 2011

31 Songs (A Scottish Fiction Rip Off...) - Song 1

Nick Hornby released a book in 2002 called '31 Songs', which was an autobiographical journey through the world of music, where Hornby selected songs which had a special meaning for him, and wrote about them and what made them so special for him. It's a book that I read and immediately loved the idea of. Music is made to be shared, it's one of the most fantastically intimate things that someone can do. Sharing a song, is sharing a little bit about ourselves, even if we don't realise it. Each week on the blog, I'll share a song and what that song means to me. Feel free to reciprocate.

Song 1

'Keeping Warm' by We Were Promised Jetpacks

During the summer of 2009 I discovered a band from Edinburgh called We Were Promised Jetpacks. I learned of them partly through a friend who had gone to see them at T In The Park because she knew their sound engineer, and partly through my dad who had bought their debut album 'These Four Walls'. I still find it amazing that my dad knew about them, and heard their music, before me, but I'm chalking that one up to the fact my influence on him and his taste in modern music has been very strong. 

Anyway, I borrowed my dad's copy of the album and it blew me away. A few days later I was in HMV and saw the album on vinyl. £12 and an hour later the LP was on constant rotation on my crappy record player. It remained there for the best part of the month of August. The autumn of 2009 was a busy one for me. My fiance at the time, now my wife, and I were busy planning our wedding in November. I had been given the charge of sorting out the music. I think my wife had allowed me this so as to stop me meddling in other affairs, which was fine with me. Much like Rob Fleming in 'High Fidelity' I agonised over the playlist, listening to countless and countless songs. 'Keeping Warm' would not end up on the list, however the song has a special meaning for me for another reason.
My now brother in law and his girlfriend were expecting their first child, the due date was the 20th November (give or take a day or two), which was a little over a week after our 11th November wedding. Sadly they had already miscarried a baby the year before, and there had been some scares along the way during this pregnancy. So needless to say when she was taken into hospital with contractions in September, there were a few worried thoughts. The baby was born 8 weeks early on 17th September. Having already had two children of my own, I felt strange, because I couldn't imagine what it must be like to have the uncertainty of a pre-mature baby. 

As previously mentioned the album 'These Four Walls' had been on heavy rotation during this time. Given what was happening with my nephew being kept in hospital, the words of 'Keeping Warm' really resonated. The first lines, "The chances of being born, are so slim, so keep warm, so keep warm" were such a lift and it was one of those other worldy moments where it felt like that song had been written purely for the situation my brother in law and his girlfriend found themselves in. I never shared the sentiments with them, although I remember discussing it with my wife, and about how, as a family we should do exactly as We Were Promised Jetpacks advised and "take some heart in being born". 

Thankfully my nephew was absolutely fine and much to the delight of all was the youngest guest at our wedding in November. And indeed over time has "learned to talk, and learn to walk" in his own time. We all have songs which invoke memories of a certain time, and of a certain person, and whilst 'Keeping Warm' does both of these, it sticks with me for more than just the fact it reminds me of my nephew. It stirs memories of my own children, and how I felt as a young father. The line, "making plans that you can't keep, that you've outgrown" makes me think just how different my own life has turned out from how I pictured it. But much like the song, which exudes positive feelings, the way things have turned out for me couldn't have been better. 

But even if we strip back all these thoughts and emotions, the song itself is an outstanding piece of music. Eight minutes and thirteen seconds long, it possess a thing which I love. A building intro. The guitars kicks in after thirty seconds. The guitar teasingly draws out a crescendo. A minute in we can hear the drumsticks tapping together, before crashing down on the cymbals a minute later. The bass saves its appreance until one minute thirty seconds providing an sturdy background to the delicateness which has proceeded. Together the parts of music become the sum of an almighty intro, drum beats and guitar riffs crashing off each other like waves off a cliff, each time producing more ocean spray than the last. Over half of song is dedicated to it's intro. For that We Were Promised Jetpacks should be applauded because despite the length, the intro is neither milked nor unnecessary.

I've discussed much of the lyrical content already, but the conviction with which lead singer Adam Thompson delivers them is another merit of this song. The album as a whole is full of this, and if you ever see the band live you can witness this first hand. I'm sure Thompson must have coughed up a lung some nights given the energy he puts into his singing.

Which brings me to the last great merit of 'Keeping Warm'. I've seen the band three times now, and two of those times, once at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, the other at the ABC, the band opened with 'Keeping Warm'. For me that is a statement. A statement of a band who right from the start provide a show full of energy, full of intent and full of passion. If 'Keeping Warm' fails to grab your attention then there's little hope.

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