Wednesday, 7 May 2014
Poor Things - Poor Things - Track by Track Review
Poor Things are a band that are blessed with the perfect mix of youthful exuberance and real world savvy. Their self titled début, Poor Things, seethes with the kind of infectious raw energy that empowers 12 year olds to pick up a guitar; pretty much how I imagine the trio began, listening to the likes of Nirvana, and Smashing Pumpkins. Yet the record is more than skin-deep, with it's observational qualities documenting the well worn path of growing up, leaving home, and wondering what your place and worth in the world is.
But don't just take my word for it. I managed to catch up with Craig and Richard from the band who have been kind enough to espouse on just how Poor Things came together through influences, writing and recording.
1) For Edwin Morgan
Richard Stratton (bass, vocals): This song was on our EP, Hurricane Poor Things. We thought it was a welcoming aural door for the listener to step into. We feel that the last track, Master of Arts, is a suitable ejector seat.
Craig Angus (guitar, vocals): It was originally written with the role of ‘first track on the album’ but in 2012 we were nowhere near writing an album… It’s a homage to a really gifted guy. I was finishing up at University and studying Morgan left right and centre, there was one poem called The Second Life that opened, “but does every man feel like this at forty?” So I rewrote it with the famous 21st year in mind. I think being in your early twenties is meant to be quite liberating but to be brutally honest I’ve just felt more and more anxious since then about anything and everything. FEELINGS.
2) Halcyon Days!
C: A nostalgic number about the simplicity of youth. The character in the song who is told to ‘go and be a doctor or lawyer’ is based on a real figure who we were at school with. The sort of kid who was one of the brightest in school but still set the desk on fire in English as a glorious act of rebellion. I guess it’s about living your own life without succumbing to the pressure people put on you. When we were recording, Gav (drums) was most worried about this one, due to it being by far the fastest track on the record, he was giving it all “when I’m in the zone I’ll tell you and we’ll record it quickly before I lose the vibe”. Basically he gave the signal and we did it live in one take. I think it’s my favourite song of ours for that reason, it’s more unhinged than anything else. There’s loads of gang vocals hidden there. Matt Scott, who recorded the album, made us do fist-pumps during the takes. Great guy. Innovator.
3) Life One Part Two
R: I love the rhythm on this track. The guitar stabs are intentionally stripped back to let the lead lines rip when required. The reference point for this was Anna, Go to Him from the first Beatles album – for whatever reason, it was one of the first songs of theirs I learnt and there are echoes of it in this track. The lines about moving back in with parents and leaving the house without a sense of time and space are from personal experience… Aaand moving on!
C: Another nostalgia trip. I demo’ed it in my bedroom last summer and recorded the lyrics in one go without really writing them down, they ended up staying. If Halcyon Days covers adolescence then 1998 covers that super innocent phase of youth where things happen all around you and it barely sinks in. You just keep living in that strange world that kids live in where the imagination runs wild.
R: This and Halcyon Days are the only tracks where all three instruments were recorded at the same time. When I wrote the guitar part, I thought it sounded like The Cribs but that doesn’t really jump out in the recording. The lyrics aren’t so important, it’s mostly about chasing a feeling. I like how it has the same chords and words throughout, but feels like it has a fuckton of momentum.
R: I’ve got a 4-track recording app on my phone which I use to make very rough demos. I played the demo of this to Gav and Craig and they both really liked it. I didn’t think it would become a Poor Things song, because it’s so sparse. For the album version, the basic track is me and acoustic guitar and two microphones in the warehouse where we recorded the album. It was late at night and was indeed freezing. The ambient sounds at the beginning and end are the traffic noises picked up on the basic track.
7) A Drunk Man Considers The Royal Wedding At Kelvingrove Park
C: I had this idea kicking about in my head for ages about having a song with this title. I tried writing it a few times and it just never felt right. The day it fell into place I was out and the words started popping into my head so I got home as quickly as possible and got it all down before I lost the vibe.
R: This song is really sassy. I just remember we all found it hilarious recording backing vocals for this and Life One Part Two. Recording backing vocals, hand claps, tambourines, and shakers is the most fun we ever have as a band.
C: A few people have suggested this song is a particularly ‘anti-royal’ song. I’m not so sure… I remember when the wedding happened, it was sweltering and people were getting wrecked due to the bank-holiday status - as is common practice here. Glasgow is in certain places a desperately poor place, a desperately neglected place and the Drunk Man of the song doesn’t see why he should celebrate when he was born into such an unequal society where Iain Duncan Smith comes to the east-end and only cries for the cameras. He definitely sympathises with the the newly-weds though, I think secretly he’d like to have a Pimms and lemonade with the Middletons and talk about Aston Villa and types of crisps, and the invasive journo-vultures sicken him. This song also features the use of the word ‘croissants’. Another box ticked.
8) Anaconda Man
C: My flatmate Marc, who did the artwork for the album, leaves surreal pictures around the house. You’d go to the toilet and there would be a huge sign saying “I BELIEVE IN U” or something. There was one last year with this freaky snake/man that just said “Anaconda Man”. I adopted him as an alter-ego. It’s an anthem for inadequacy. I played it to my girlfriend, Claire, and she sang the “you look so good standing next to me” part, and we went from there.
9) New Best Friends
R: I wrote this when I was 18, in halls of residence at Glasgow Uni. I still have about four demos I made between 2009 and 2013 of it. I think we were mucking about at rehearsals playing some very old songs we’d written, and this turned out amazingly well. All the rest of the songs are only about a year-and-a-half old, maximum.
R: I was having a bit of a panic attack before going into the studio because, although I loved the music, the lyrics I was churning out for this song kept making my toes curl. The pressure of having to record definitely helped with that.
C: He came in with the lyrics and when he first sang the “I don’t have a job/I don’t have a clue/I don’t have a scooby dooby doo” part I started pissing myself. I think it’s fucking genius. We really wanted that self-deprecating sense of humour to translate onto the album and I think this is the best example.
11) Master of Arts
C: A week before the last recording session I freaked out because the songs we were initially going to close the album with didn’t really offer a sense of closure. I’m really into endings. Not necessarily conventional endings but endings nonetheless. We wrote this one in a day, with the pressure of needing that final track to round things off fuelling it. It’s 5 years in one song, the time between moving to Glasgow as a wide-eyed 17 year old and being a ruthlessly flung into the jaws of the UK in 2014 and chewed up. The negativity is a little bit exaggerated but I think it works well as a companion piece to Morgan.
R: I will never get tired of playing the end of this song. I feel like I’m in Mogwai or something whenever we play it.
Poor Things - Poor Things is out now via Saraseto Records. You can buy/ listen to the album in full via the below widget or direct from here.