Sunday, 19 March 2017
The Dark Corners of Urban Fox's mind
I'd been listening to 'Upstairs at Eric's', the Yazoo album that brought the Vince Clarke I love today into my life. The Depeche Mode version of Vince sounded like he was having fun but didn't really interest me; the Yazoo version had a bit more edge. The story behind how that album was written inspired me to go into the studio unarmed, with the intention to write lots of melodies, bass lines, chord progressions and sections of what could be used for verses and choruses. What happened was quite different.
I've been obsessed with Gary Numan for most of my life. Identifying with everything his early work was saying, the fear, the insecurities, the feeling of isolation - things you weren't ever really allowed to admit in public but here was this famous guy, telling everyone about his childhood and everything he still felt. Tears for Fears managed that with 'The Hurting' too through not only beautifully constructed songs and some genius drumming, but through lyrics that could be lifted from the music and read aloud, captivating anyone listening who'd felt anything remotely similar (see 'Watch me Bleed' and 'Start of the Breakdown' to have your mind blown).
Urban Fox's new album (April 2017) seeks to juxtapose everything about Vince Clarke's luscious upbeat synthesizer craft with the inwardly gazing self-aware morose and darkly realistic commentary of what it means to be a child, a teenager, a young adult, an adult and a middle-aged adult looking back and forward whilst trying to keep everything in perspective. Whilst that might sound a little pretentious, it is. It totally is, That's the point. There are no love songs on this album at all - they're all about emotional intelligence, or lack of, and the voice in the songs telling the listener that this is how it feels, from a position of experience.
The opening track 'Facing the light' deals with self doubt and fear. (Hear it here) My own mind' is about someone I used to look up to, someone I used to think had it all worked out until I realised it was all fake. It's like people who invent this utopia on Facebook when in reality, they haven't done anything they're telling the world they're doing. 'No one, Nowhere' is about the lies you tell yourself. Anything from 'I'll never do that again' to 'I'll try harder next time' when you know it's just you trying to deal with your own guilt and eventually, not feeling good enough to be part of anything.
As I say, it's all 'dark corners' of the mind but we eventually get to a track which turns the inward to outward. 'More' was written on a Yamaha Portasound PSS-790. It's the first keyboard I owned that had a 'record' function. My Casio with five drum pads, my two-tier keyboard pub organ with pedals (See below) on which I would play the intro to Dire Straits 'Walk of Life' over and over, and my bontemi auto-chord thing didn't have an internal recording memory so I'd just play them and wander off to do something else. The Pss-790 had an 8 track memory so writing songs on it was simple (if basic). I hadn't written anything on it since 1997's 'Transfection' album. I've used it a few times since for background stuff like on the album 'Days' in 2010. So the entire song was written on the PSS-790 and then transposed and re-instrumented (if that's a word) into Pro-tools. It's a song about getting to the bottom of why you think things aren't right. People would be happier, I think, if they could face their problems - I know too many people who are happy to ignore problems but exist in this perpetual state of anxiety rather than removing the problem which would cause short-term unhappiness for a long term solution. Anyway, 'More' is about that.
The next track was almost called 'Hobson's Choice' but a) not sure everyone is familiar with that and b) I think that might be copyrighted or something. The track is now called 'Take it or leave it' which is the crux of Hobson's choice. It's really about knowing there's a third option. Some of us, me included, have only ever seen what's in front of them. Do I do A or B. There's nearly always a third option.
'Losing faith' speaks for itself (hear it here). Trying and trying to achieve something that never seems to be getting any nearer. It's that old adage, if you do what you've always done, you'll get the same results.
'The Centre of the universe' is about losing that which you thought was pivotal to how you go about your life. It's about moving on in a positive manner as the first line says 'You can win a game you didn't play' - things falling into your lap by divine intervention... or something.
'Dark Corners' is my favourite song on the album. It's a ballad that kicks in with some 'Depeche Mode' style industrial percussion to make the whole thing a bit harsh. The song is sitting in that corner and realising the world doesn't actually care about you or anything you've got to say. None of your tweets are getting likes or retweets, your instagram account has been suspended through lack of interest and people won't serve you in shops. That kind of thing. (not really)
'And Ever' is a take on that rediculous last time to every fairy story ever. 'They lived happily ever after'. No they didn't. It's really a song about how giving up seems like the best option. And how gratifying it can feel too. It's one less thing to worry about and now you can 'fall asleep and then I'll stay there forever'.
The final track is 'Locking doors' which again is quite self-explanatory. Mainly it's about getting out of that dream world you exist in and going into reality, taking control, finding beauty in things where you never thought it existed and 'locking doors' on all the fear that's stopped you getting where you want to be.
It's a nice way to finish the album (although the track listing above might not be the final order, it's the order in which the songs were written).
Dark Corners is out this April!