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Race Horses: ‘Mates’ single (“self-deprecating boysprawl, all big feet and perky singalong tune”)

12 May
Race Horses: 'Mates'

Race Horses: ‘Mates’

Your past is a different country. Wander into the wrong part of it and you might get socked on the back of the head: yes, you may have been there before, but you can’t do things in the same way now. At the same time, you’ll find that you’re already changed by having been there in the first place, so you can’t do those things in the same way anyway. Meilyr Jones knows about all this – now – and he’s keen to tell you about it.

Compared to some of the music Meilyr and his band have put out previously – exciting indie pop with an experimental edge rumpling up the sound – Mates is fairly straightforward. In common with many other Welsh pop bands, Race Horses have that Cymric reputation for lateral thinking squatting on their shoulders; but they wear it lightly. Instead of opening up a window through which you can peer into their world, they come lolloping over to meet yours, trailing the odd strange decoration or kooky wristband to colour things up a little.

Mates does start off as exotic process. The title, chanted, is an offbeat factory loop over which the song is assembled: a marimba plinks throughout, stolen from the school music room in order to scatter musical cherries on top. The muscle of the song itself is something of a hiccupping cha-cha-cha, led by the bass. The melody and words, though, make up a cheerful self-deprecating Britpop boysprawl, all big feet and perky singalong tune. It’s a song about being dumped – knocked sideways and woebegone – but it refuses to just lie down and die. The same clever boyishness has kept classic Madness songs fresh since the ’80s (though Race Horses sound as much like a decade-stretching handshake between the Bowies of ‘Scary Monsters’ and ‘Hunky Dory’, even down to the music-hall quirks).

As for where Race Horses find themselves at the moment, it’s in that freefalling zone between “us” and “you and me”, where laws of belief are tumbled over and even geography gets overwritten with new, painful memories. “All the times I used to doubt it / but now I find I’m lost without it” complains Meilyr, groping after a love that’s evaporated and left him staggering. This could be chapter one of a Casanova’s progress, as he seems to have found the first sniff of something he’s suddenly found himself hooked on. For now, he’s still fumbling in disbelief around the ache. “Your words, cold and heavy, / echo down the walls of the place we used to go, / when we were mates.” I know what he means – for me, a particular park in Crouch End is haunted even in bright sunshine, and I still can’t see a shooting star without feeling a twinge.

Still, despite the complaints, Meilyr seems to have already wrapped up the experience into a little eight-syllable summary which he can hold up like a snowglobe – “It cuts, it soothes. / It comes, it’s you,” – and the bouncing plink of the tune sounds more happy than despondent. Perhaps it’s the indomitable bungee-rope of young testosterone. Perhaps Meilyr’s just singing in the sure knowledge that Mates could be one of those songs which make a lot of capering indie pop kids happy during the summer of 2012. Hey ho, the twisted power of love gone splat. Ouch.

Race Horses: ‘Mates’
Stolen Recordings (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download-only single
Released: 9th May 2012

Buy it from:
Download free from Race Horses Facebook page.

Race Horses online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace

Glowing House: ‘Taming Lions’ single (“beating time on a tumbledown shack”)

12 May

Out at the helm of Glowing House, Steve Varney is raw, ruffled, hollering and sounds born to run. This is just as well. Trouble is hot on his tail. “I don’t think there is a gauge that will save me – / somehow they overpower gunpowder, like it’s easy…”

The head-up single for the second Glowing House album, Taming Lions is all about the incipient, savage disaster that’s just about to crash down on Steve’s head. The band’s fall-apart folky acoustic noise catches the feeling perfectly. They sound like the kind of band which survives credit crunches, small nuclear wars and the collapse of most of the functional parts of civilization. You can see yawing flashes of light straight through the gaps in the barefoot, wind-tossed rhythms.

Besides the cluck and clunk of Steve’s banjo, the song’s a superb stomping wobble of school piano, Salvation Army brass, foggy rasps of accordion and dirty cello, and someone beating time on a tumbledown shack with a handful of big sticks. (I checked back on this – it’s actually a third of the band playing on church pews. Talk about muscular Christianity…) At the top of his carrying, celebratory bruise of a voice, Steve’s making it quite clear that he’s stuck in a rigged and increasingly dangerous game. “They gave me a ten-minute head start, and they started counting. / I need a top-notch hiding spot I can hide out in. / Don’t be fooled they’ll give you space in the chase for a reason – / they wait for the perfect minute to stop the healing.”

Off he hurtles; firing a cartoon blunderbuss for cover, and to no great effect. They keep coming. As the song bounces on, there are more than a few suggestions that what Steve’s actually fleeing are his own demons, bouncing after him like a tin can tied to his ankle. Not much hope in escaping that way. But the sheer vigor of the band – of the song itself – suggests that they’re people who thrive on this kind of peril and the energy it kicks up. This is enormous fun. Keeping one step ahead of disaster rarely sounded so lively.

Glowing House: ‘Taming Lions’
download-only single
released: 8th May 2012

Get it from:
Free download from Bandcamp

Glowing House online:

Homepage Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Bandcamp

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