The Record Store Day BPB release for 2014 was this slightly pointless 7” single which one assumes contains cast-offs from a couple of years earlier when Oldham worked with Trembling Bells on The Duchess EP and The Marble Downs album. I say pointless because it seems kind of inessential, something about the recording quality makes the record sound cheap and 80s, and the A-side especially sounds about as throwaway as pop music gets. The B-side has a lot more going for it. The songs seem to bear no particular relevance to anything contemporary, arriving as it does in May 2014. The record comes in a cardboard-outer sans inner sleeve showing that the record label Tin Angel are treating it with about as much respect as I am in this opening paragraph. It’s a limited edition 500 copies only thing.
New Trip On The Old Wine… has a horrible simple repeating keyboard riff which is catchy-singalong but gets annoying pretty quickly. Something about this song just sounds really dated, really ‘done-before’, tossed off, harking back to some awful pop-country 80s sound. The lyrics and vocal style are reminiscent of early Trembling Bells/Oldham collaborations, which is to say they seem to stray around the topic in an effort to be poetic, which works sometimes, but here, not so interesting. In essence it appears to be a love song, but how the chorus relates exactly, it’s hard to say – perhaps it simply refers to a new romance: “Well it’s a new trip on the old wine / Another flavour from the grapevine / Fermentation for a different time / It’s a new trip on the old wine.” It seems there’s a couple, in a car, travelling somewhere. The point of view mostly comes from a male protagonist who seems pretty upbeat with his eyes “on the prize” and with “24 hours of living today and plenty more besides.” As a consequence, he’s got no time for the “jive” of downer music as he takes his baby to (or in) lover’s lane. After that it’s a couple of lines about getting high, true love, and this weird great simile: “Her love protects me like a donkey sanctuary / And when my back can’t take no more she fills me with serenity,” which harks back to that great second track off Superwolf, “Beast for Thee.” There are some really nice moments in the intonation and mix of voices but otherwise it’s forgettable.
Lay It Down… this title refers to unburdening oneself of the baggage we carry through life as we “travel…down our different roads / Trying hard to move these loads / We take it there but we can’t let go / It’s so hard to lay it down.” This is another duet, this time to the tune of a sweet mellow acoustic guitar melody and a pop beat. Here Lavinia Blackwall’s character beseeches Oldham’s to “confide in me” and “speak to me beyond the shame.” To this he replies to her directly, “Lavinia, I wish my words could make it well” while she wishes she could “break the shell” he’s constructed around himself. There’s reference to an “Eden” which points to the cosy times these two presumably once shared before something went wrong, or Oldham’s character went off and cheated as he’s wont to do. By song end Oldham’s confessing that he finally learned “to lay it down.” So – a song about communication, about getting things off your chest without fear of reprisal. It’s a fairly conventional pop tune, but very pretty; the chorus reminds me of some kind of country pop song from the 70s: “Lay it down brother, lay it down / It’s so hard to lay it down” – so familiar in fact I’d wouldn’t be surprised if it was a cover.
This is probably one of the least essential 7” singles of Oldham’s I’ve ever had the misfortune to spend eight quid to obtain. It’s likeable but I don’t really see the point in 7” singles any more other than as silly collector’s items. Do jukeboxes that play 7” singles still exist? I guess they must do somewhere in the world but who’s gonna put this obscure and fairly lame item in there and care enough to play it? Two months later, another 7” would be released, “We Love Our Hole“, this time Oldham reuniting with Emmett Kelly and the Cairo Gang from the wonderful Wonder Show Of The Worldalbum.
Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing.
In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.