I’ve got some things to say here – but please feel free not to read them. An A+ band have chosen some A+ songs, and you can win tickets to their show – it’s all below my dumb words.
So, I’m appalled by a lot of things. Chief amongst them are guitars turned up anywhere past 4 and hard boiled eggs. You think some bands have your back, you think some bands understand you. I turned to The Boy Least Likely To when Belle & Sebastian got too heavy. I love The Boy Least Likely To. They warm my ice-cold heart, they make me believe in better things than my eyes can see, they make the world a better place. I have hitched my apple wagon to their star and i have no idea at all what that means. And now, many many years later they bring us an In Five filled with metal, hair metal and a band that (once at least) channelled all the grandeur of rock world’s greatest stadium fillers. There’s also Orange Juice and Tammy Wynette (as there always should be), but that hardly fits into my narrative. Also, the hard boiled eggs. The Boy Least Likely To have a song that literally advocates eating a hard boiled egg. I guess I should have realised then that they were capable of the sort of depravity that would bring AC/DC to our gentle London in Stereo pages. No matter, they remain one the most idiosyncratic, charming and downright loveable bands around and I’m very happy they are backbackback in pop world with wonderful pop single ‘Follow Your Heart Somewhere’ and a show at The Lexington on Monday April 24th. To celebrate all this heartening news, Jof and Pete bring us five songs that have informed this happiest of comebacks and, well, you already know they’re bringing the rock. Take a sweet listen, and then find how to win a pair of tickets to that Lexington show.
Def Leppard – Excitable
Pete: Over the summer I was decorating my house for a couple of weeks and I kept hearing ‘Excitable’ by Def Leppard on the Planet Rock radio station. It’s a sort of rock band attempting to have a dance hit in the 80s kind of song and it’s just stuffed full of hooks, space, woo-hoo backing vocals and general ridiculousness. I think it’s brilliant and fun and it always made me want to put my paintbrush down, dance and write a woo-hoo song.
Jof: When I first met Pete he was in a heavy metal band. They’d been in Metal Hammer and everything. He was a local celebrity at fifteen years old. I was into indie pop and The Smiths and Billy Bragg and The Housemartins and all that stuff but I knew what he was doing was a genuinely big deal. He used to do tapping solos and everything. He’s still a really amazing guitarist. I feel bad that he’s only played acoustic guitar when he’s played live in The Boy Least Likely To up until now, but now he’s going to be playing electric again. It’s been nice to see him letting his hair down on these new songs. Maybe he should grow his hair down past his shoulders again to go with it. Who knows there might even be some tapping solos.
Manic Street Preachers – The Everlasting
Jof: I always love it when bands write songs about being in a band. It seems like the most honest thing any band can write a song about. After all, it’s probably the thing that a lot of bands think about more than anything else, so I like it when that ends up feeding into their words. Dexy’s Midnight Runners were always great at it and so were the Manics. They always manage to make a subject like being in band, that should be so personal and niche, sound in some way identifiable and universal. When I was writing the words to ‘Follow Your Heart Somewhere’ I knew I wanted it to be one of those sorts of songs. I wanted it to be a song about where we’d gone and where we’d ended up as a band disguised as a love song, or maybe it’s the other way round; a love song disguised as a song about being in a band. I don’t know which it is. I’ve always loved The Manics, we both have – they were the first band we ever really agreed on and bonded over – and I’ve always loved ‘The Everlasting’ because it’s full of so much regret and longing for a simpler time. “In the beginning when we were winning, when our smiles were genuine” – it’s heartbreaking stuff to hear someone singing about how far they’ve moved away from what they started out as, from the things they believed in and grew up wanting to be. That said, ‘Follow Your Heart Somewhere’ is just a love song really, I just noticed a lot of similarities between the way a romantic relationship can grow and come apart with the way that I’d felt we’d grown apart as a band in recent years. It’s so easy to lose sight of what it was you wanted to be in the beginning, before all the success and the expectations start taking hold of you and taking you away from just being something easy. I think it’s amazing that we’re still both friends after all these years and it felt exciting recording this new single in a way that it hasn’t for a while. That isn’t to say I don’t love all of the songs we’ve recorded on the last couple of albums, I just knew as soon as we started writing this song that we’d magically found our way back to something we had at the beginning that we’d maybe lost sight of sometimes since then. It could be our Never Forget if we were breaking up, but we’re not. Maybe we should have saved it until we were.
AC/DC – Back in Black
Pete: After writing ‘Follow Your Heart Somewhere’ we decided that we wanted to record it live and get it done quickly- two things we’d never done before. We’d always recorded everything individually and painstakingly pieced it all together, sometimes it took weeks to finish recording one song. I wanted the track to sound as sparse as possible, just guitar, bass, drums, vocals and the sound of the room we recorded in. My reference point was AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’. I never thought I’d see the day when The Boy Least Likely To were openly channelling AC/DC. In the end it took two days to record, a new world record for us.
Orange Juice – Rip It Up
Jof: We just kept going back to Orange Juice when we were recording ‘Follow Your Heart Somewhere’. That scratchy little funk guitar on the choruses seemed to sit so sweetly next to the fuzzed up guitar riff at the beginning. I love that Orange Juice had all those influences from The Byrds to Motown to the Velvet Underground, but that when it came down to the records they made they didn’t sound like any of those influences. They just sounded like Orange Juice. It was almost like they were incapable of sounding like anything other than themselves. They’ve always been a massive influence on us, but this record feels like the first time you can actually hear it to me.
Tammy Wynette – Til I Can Make It On My Own
Jof: I’ve spent the last five years listening to nothing but country music. I guess I’m just at that age. I still love a lot of pop music, but I just keep returning to country for one reason or another. I wanted ‘Follow Your Heart Somewhere’ to have a typical country heartbreak lyric but with a hint of hope that it’s all going to be okay in the end, even if neither of you are really there yet. I wrote it about two friends of mine who’d been together for years. I guess when you’ve been in a relationship for that long both of you end up broken hearted in some way or another, neither of you are going to walk away unscathed emotionally. This is Tammy Wynette’s finest moment for me. She’s singing about how she knows it’s all going to work out eventually but how she just isn’t quite there yet – “I’ll get by, but no matter how I try there’ll be times you know I’ll call, chances are my tears will fall and I’ll have no pride at all from time to time” – and until she is there she’s just going to make a mess of it all. Poor Tammy. I’m not sure if she ever was okay in the end.