“Intro” A glimpse into a chaotic moment of synchronicity in the control room, kind of a spontaneous remix with two tracks (one of them happening live) playing at the same time and the faders going up and down all over the place. Captured only on DAT and edited down to 2 minutes which set the mood for the album.The guitar playing is all through really long (2000 ms) delays on 90-99% feedback.The same day I recorded another hour of looped delays while the rest of the band watched a football match, that will surface later this year on a solo single I am making. The background sounds are bits and pieces from our original version of “Only The Strongest Will Survive” fed through the Mutronics ‘Mutator’ and digital delays.
“NYC” NYC is about adopting the attitudes of the places you pass through, and the way the places that you visit also visit you (and sometimes stay with you forever). We loved New York, the last time we were there was actually the first time I have spent any amount of time there.I tried to fill the song with references to my version of New York, that’s why it goes into the ‘Sonic Youth’ bit at the end. (To me Sonic Youth are the ultimate NYC band, around the time of Daydream Nation). We tried to get the sound of the subway in there as well and a ‘Suicide’ reverbed-out tambourine.(Are they from New York? If not, they should be.)
Loads of the lyrics for this album were written on tour, (like most second albums, I guess) and we wanted to make an effort to recapture some of the travelogue on the music on the album too. There was originally going to be a whole bunch of songs centred around the places we’d been... the only other one which got finished is “Bullet Train” which we released on the b-side of “Rising Sign” (An unfinished piece called “Chepstow Services” is still the pipeline...)
“The Greatest High” A bitter revenge fantasy, full of childish emotions like jealousy and spite... which the Creation website announced as a “big life affirming ballad” !!!!!!!!! ('oops!' - website editor) Alexs’ voice sounds extra cool with all that echo on it...We had a very hard time getting this one right, ended up giving it to Farley and Heller, who make the song sound like a single.
“Remote Control” This song is about our push-button world, a world where manipulation brings no immediate consequences.The “bird in flight” is a jet fighter, the sacred peacemaker bringing the final solution on perfumed wings, by remote control, no soul... but the ‘solution’ is only a solution for one side, and can only be temporary. (By the way, this song is going to be the next single)
“The Price That We Pay” I wrote this song after reading ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland. It’s a great book, you’ve probably already read it. In the words, I wanted to get across the idea of turning over a new leaf. It’s what happens in the book and they call it year zero... the other thread in the song came from the book being written very visually, like a movie...it appealed to me because I like the thought that we are all starring in our own private movies (interested parties should dig out a book called ‘Cosmic Trigger’ by Robert Anton Wilson.)
To tie in with the vibe of ‘The Beach’, I wanted a really euphoric sounding backing track, and we were working on a version which had an atmosphere really similar to what Paul Oakenfold did with Olives’ “You’re Not Alone”. Over the weeks this mutated into a version which owed much more to “Fools Gold”, but then it went too far that way and we got confused. We put out an acoustic version as the b-side to “Rising Sign”, intending to finish the band version for the album, but in the end we decided that the acoustic version was the best anyway. (We’ve got a pretty cool band version though, which we might play live on the tour)
“Separation Sunday” This song is about life on tour... coming around to the sound of fire engines which you realise is the phone, and then when you turn the telly on, the weathermap looks peculiar, your head hurts, and you miss home. The drums and programming on the song was constructed as a hybrid of the percussion from Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”, mixed with the live drums from “Hallelujah” by Can / Happy Mondays. Most of the guitars are overlayed and delayed loops.
“Rising Sign” This was the first song we worked on for the album session. The original version is our homage to My Bloody Valentines’ “Soon”, then Kevin Shields showed us how to do it with his remix. The actual song is about nothing, the lyrics being a sideshow to the wall of sound. This song couldn’t have happened without the radar hard disk multitrack recording system. Technophiles might be interested to know that the entire album was recorded without using a single piece of tape or a guitar amplifier. We totally embraced digital technology, and the cut-and-paste thing was essential to this track.By the way, this song gave me a very painful ear infection. Listening to it at extreme volume for weeks at a time as we worked on it took its’ toll.
“Only The Strongest Will Survive” Sometimes pain is easier than accepting that you can feel pleasure again, because pleasure itself is so transient... and the highs in life always seem to equal the lows. This song is an encouragement to somebody to help them gather the spiritual strength to get out of that tunnel and allow themselves to feel again. The idea behind the words is, you’ve got to kill a little piece of yourself every time you want to move forward in life, and it takes strength to do that. The song has a positive message which is basically ‘You can do it’. There’s always somebody around who’ll tell you that your life or your feelings are worth nothing, but don’t listen to them, you know that you’re worth more than that.We used the UNKLE version because Lavelles’ mix seemed to fit better with the sound of the rest of the album.
“Long Way Down” Originally the bridge to a different song called “Northern Lights”, McGee picked out this guitar riff and basically forced me to extend it out into a song. We liked the way it turned out so much that it was originally planned as the follow up single to “Rising Sign”. The song is about how extremes of experience can alienate you even from those closest to you.
“Twilight World” The story of some terrible times, hopefully with an optimistic ending. The music features my favourite bass playing on the album - Will does Sly Stone meets the Fugees. The drums are supposed to sound like Michael Jackson (Thriller era) meets All Saints - whose album Gaz and I were blasting in our cars at the time. The wah wah guitar and some of Wills’ bass were recorded in my front room for a demo, and spun in for the finished song. Alex’s voice sounds cool so exposed ... I should mention that Alex did just about all his vocals for this album in one take- Our producer said that out of the whole recording session he only spent about an hour doing vocals.
“Come Alive” Inspired by the psychedelic sunset clouds of East Oxford on a summer night. And there’s a few ‘aaahs’ on there for all the old Ride fans...
“What Do I Know?” A look inside the world of Mr Lowe, a place which the rest of us can only wonder about.
“Afterhours” When we worked on the initial programming for this album I was playing “Mezzanine” by Massive Attack all the time alternating with “Goats’ Head Soup” by The Rolling Stones. The way this track ended up sounds to me like a pretty good blend of these two influences. This is my favourite song of the album, although it’s pretty sad. We wanted it to end the album, but in case it became too much of a downer, we stuck on a snippet of late evening acoustic jamming on the riff from “NYC”, which we later thought would be a good way to fade away...
Thanks for reading this - maybe see you on the tour. The above was written by Andy Bell a few days ago, in Stockholm, Sweden.