I jetted over Waterloo Bridge listening, for the first time in years, to my debut album. I put it on because I suddenly had a strange hankering to hear a particular song from it, and after I had I let the record play out, walking along the South Bank in the embers of summer. It was a strange experience.
Rather to my surprise, I like this album now. I didn’t exactly think it was bad, but there was always a sense in which it never lived up to the plans I had for it (it was made, after all, on a budget of about £300). I sometimes apologise when selling it at shows, “Oh, this is a bit old”, that sort of thing. Now, though, all those little flaws have had time to become fond memories. And more importantly, the thing has ‘a sound’ which temporal distance allows me to hear properly for the first time – a coherence and character of its own. It sounds like we recorded it with one of my shoes instead of a microphone, but that gives it a distinctness all of its own.
I’m also not too embarrassed about the writing, which is reassuring. Although I’ve definitely improved since 2009 (I hope?) there are songs on here I still have a lot of time for. ‘Shaking Sabres’ is one – I love that electric guitar sound, the way the vocal goes against the shonky acoustic and bass lines, the spartan use of the Hectic Eclectic Folk Choir. It was also a joy to revisit ‘The Irritating Maze’. I so, so nearly skipped this tune when it came on – it’s so long, it’s so flabby, it’s so of-its-moment – but I’d bumped into Genny Robinson (the narrator) on the overground the previous day, so I listened through out of respect. I’m glad I did – there are so many different bits, and because each was devised and recorded in different places there are years of memories of my life stashed in amidst the sound waves. I got really into it near the Globe theatre and frightened some tourists with my air guitar.
I suppose that moment where you listen to your old work and recapture something of your lost self is one of the big things that motivates me to go through the intense and perverse activity of making records. As I’m finally setting out to pin down album #2, it was a fraught moment to listen back, but I’m glad I did. It reminded me of happy (and sad) times past, but it also (and this is the nicest thing I can think of to say about any music, really) made me want to sit down and write lots of new stuff; to keep going; to do it again. Which I guess I’ll do!
People tell me at shows that they still put To Infinitives Split on sometimes, which is really flattering and awesome. If you bought it a while back, dust it off and have a listen through for my sake (it’s also online here). We forget, I think, in making records, that we’re building them to last. I’d love to know if you think mine is doing the job.