Part of my plan for this tenth anniversary inspired ‘break’ I’m currently enjoying was to make the pre-Brainlove PWL stuff available again. I released two(ish) albums and eight(ish) EP’s whilst I was at university and in my post-uni wilderness years, and I always thought of them as ‘stuff for the boxed set’ that would come out once I was mega famous and rich – like I am now.
So here comes the ‘boxed set’, albeit a digital one via bandcamp. The plan is to do one release a month for the next ten months. Having considered other options I’m going to start with the most recent and work backwards, mostly for quality reasons. I think this way they’ll start off as records I genuinely think people will enjoy owning, and end up with things that people who are interested will find interesting (and no one else need concern themselves with).
The first release in the series is one that’s already had a minor re-release a few years back. It’s my second album ‘Build Library Here (or else!)’.
This album was recorded in Aberystwyth on a digital 8-track during 2004-2005. I also recorded two EPs at the same time, which were ‘released’ first. Songs were split off as I went along, acoustic songs going onto the ‘Siop Enoc Hughes’ EP, electronic ones going onto ‘The Monkeys of the Shitty Island’ and ones which were sort of in-between or just plain better went onto the album.
I think it’s as good, in terms of quality of songwriting, as pretty much everything I’ve done since. It would sit nicely in a trilogy with European Monsoon and Fight My Battles For Me. John Brainlove once described it as ‘the album Blur should have made after Parklife’, and whilst I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that I do take it as a compliment.
There’s a spontaneity and simplicity to this record that I miss a little. Most of the recordings were done from start to finish in a few hours, sometimes after a few months of writing and arranging in my head, sometimes they were written that day. I can’t imagine putting something as ‘knocked out’ sounding as ‘Yr On My Shoulder’ on an album now, but then there clearly wasn’t the same ‘pressure’ on me then… ‘Build Library Here’ was handmade in the low double figures and not released or promoted in any way other than copies given to friends.
Most of ‘European Monsoon’ took months to write, then months to record. I’m trying with some success to get back to a quicker approach where I get the basic song done and mostly finished in one go then tweak it later – which is something I definitely didn’t do in 2005. I think there’s a satisfaction in throwing something together quickly without much thought, then getting to know its quirks and qualities later. It’s a very different feeling to slowly putting something together and already knowing every part of it inside out before it’s complete.
Maybe I’m rose-tinting a bit here? Certainly ‘European Monsoon’ sounds better and has more consistently good lyrics (imho) and that’s a result of the time I took on it. Great British Public took over a year, but Self-Doubt Gun was written and recorded in a day. Version 5 probably sounds like it took a while but actually it was made in a few quick sessions with little pre-planning. The pleasure I got from that song was similar, in that the results were a surprise. So the spontaneity is still there.
Anyway…. I commented to a friend at the time this came out that I felt like Build Library Here was the end of something, thinking that perhaps it might be the last PWL record. He said not to be daft. But in many ways it was the end of phase one. Everything since has been on Brainlove. When this came out I think I’d only played about four gigs outside Aberystwyth, I’ve now been all over the UK and beyond. I occasionally wonder if I’d have got there a bit sooner if I’d made any effort whatsoever to get this record heard.
The press release for the ‘boxed set’ is doing the rounds, it has a Q&A which tells you a bit more.