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)
Released: 9th May 2012
Buy it from:
Download free from Race Horses Facebook page.