After a very long list of self-released EPs dating back to 2000, most of which I've never heard — though I remember ads for a couple of them in Andy's Records in Aber, I think — Pagan Wanderer Lu finally comes to pressed CD and pro recording. PWL being Mr Andy Regan, someone else I apparently went to university with and never met, nor ran into when Jez, Mark et al were doing their Grubby Adipose Flange thing and other bands. I stumbled across his music via a weblog collective.
The Independent Scrutineer contains three tracks I'd heard before, Memorial Hall and Our New Hospital as demos and Repetition 1 on an Adam Walton show session Repetition 1 is the least changed here, and unusually for stuff I've heard in a different form before, the other two clicked with me on the first listen.
The Memorial Hall is a fine choice of lead track, building into an energetic song about being drunk and dancing and talking the night away about current events in that slightly desultory way people tend to do when they're pissed. This recording of is much more polished than the demo, the drumbeat in the first part now backed by plaintive bugling and the main song by all sorts of fizzy synth — plus everything seems more confident and controlled. There's a slight crackle running underneath most of the second part, which I'm not sure is intentional, but lends a "live session" feel that isn't at all unpleasant. It could still easily go on for another few minutes repeating verses and the chorus without feeling long.
Repetition 2 I can't quite nail down, though it also has plenty of lines that stick in your head. Lots of beats and haywire sounds, I assume involving sampling but with regular guitars in there as well. Always with a melody that borders on jaunty underneath, holding things together. It's a fun track.
Our New Hospital Sucks has become more fuzzed-up and shouty, appearing to echo from a distance towards the mic with banging and clattering in the background... and even parts played out of sync alongside the main instruments. It does distract a little bit from the lyrics, but the rowdy style suits them.
Repetition 1 slows things right back down suddenly, but quickly gains a beat and sucks us into the quieter second half of the EP. The transition to ---- is subtle enough to miss and can probably be considered a coda despite being broken off into a separate ~2min track. It has similarly lowkey lyrics leading into a fadeout that hangs in the air.
Knight -> King 4 has a great rising guitar line and drumbeat. Again, it's anyone's guess what the lyrics are about, though "remembering" is a theme running through several songs, and occasionally things come across a little melancholy — a comparison with Eels wouldn't be unreasonable, I think.
Things could use a little more volume compression so that quieter tracks rise in the mix, or as an easier tweak Our New Hospital Sucks could just be quietened a bit; I'm guessing the aim was to make it sound loud rather than necessarily be loud...
There are two styles of songwriting here, indie pop that often takes a wry look at social politics and issues, and more reflective and experimental stuff. They're not by any means exclusive, some of the most enjoyable parts of PWL tracks being quick changes, just be aware that sometimes you've got a story to follow, whilst other times (Knight -> King 4, for example) you're letting sound wash over you and the lyrics suggest. I don't like using the word "soundscape" because people tend to link it with pretentious wank, and this isn't... it's pleasant, quite inventive and I like. Anything you find yourself humming days afterwards or listening to a few times on repeat is catchy.
So go and check him out. There's lots of stuff on Myspace, Last.fm and his site to listen to before you plunk down for a copy. In particular, don't miss the Hospital Radio Hits demo MP3 pack. Those earlier recordings are a bit rough but I'd love to hear the tracks (You and Me and) Winston Churchill and Kofi Annan TV redone for a future EP.
THE MEMORIAL HALL Left to your own devices You will forget the memorial hall See in the faded newsprint Thumbs up from the pals As they wave us goodbye And I've got a girl back home I wrote her a letter, I don't suppose I'll get a reply, I only hope She'll remember my name Poppies we buy to remember They sell to forget In Afghanistan With our faith in the hands of brick layers We know we could sleep Safe inside it's warm As I dance in your hands tonight These walls shake with our dancing inside We understand that our tributes are right Except that there will be more Now we remember the disco They're holding tonight at the memorial hall I hope to meet eyes with your sister As she stands like a flower by the plaque by the wall But the alcohol kicks in and somehow instead The words on the plaque just take over my head I think I shouldn't be dancing with so many dead But I'm wrong CHORUS: If there's a point to the fighting, any point at all It's so we can dance in the memorial hall (x4) And if drunkenness leads us to conflict Supporting the troops versus not in my name Someone gets bored change the subject Before I explain how they can be the same If we don't get revenge then the bad guys have won If the winners aren't good guys that's what they become The only point in life is just to have fun Well you're wrong CHORUS
REPETITION 2 There's a brand new dance, and it's easy to do If everyone has empathy, they'll share my point of view And if everyone has empathy then nothing will be cool And there will be no difference 'tween a disco and a school Just empty repetition The cult of terrorism The strength of your conviction The Big Brother eviction CHORUS: Death to repetition of this long hot summer Dreaming of an end to all this perfect weather You look as if there's always something on your mind I'm sorry Mr Regan, but your card has been declined Or maybe you would rather be a terrorist as well? The gulf between ideas is the cave in which they dwell And if right and wrong are real then it's easier to kill And you'd think that that would maybe be a hard idea deal to sell But it's done by repetition That old time religion The day of the decision I bet I will be thinking CHORUS
OUR NEW HOSPITAL SUCKS Our new hospital sucks The contractors are cooking the books Though the old one was all falling down At least it was in the centre of town This one's architecturally innovative The design has cost them five million quid Though I can't deny it's a lovely facade There's not enough space in the fucking carpark CHORUS: And you can paint a funny mural on the children's ward But there's not as many beds as there were before And you if have a heart attack and drop on your kitchen floor Then they'll have to drive you further than they would've before And the nurses have new uniforms in corporate colours But they're working longer hours than they were before And they built it PFI so it cost us more And there's not as many beds as there were before Our new hospital sucks And it's even worse than it looks 'Cause they haven't recouped the costs yet So the local council's in debt To an unaccountable consortium Who put the profits before the patients And there's documents we're not allowed to see 'Cause of commercial confidentiality CHORUS
REPETITION 1 There's a brand new dance and it's easy to do Endless repetition of what's bothering you Can't fight the situation but the feeling you choose And no-one in their right mind would do what you do And if you get that letter Will it make you feel better? Deus ex machina When you're under the weather When you die what goes through your mind? What distractions do you hope to find As you pass through to the other side Of that blinding white light? Will they come in through the window, should I lock my door? Should I stay in and go foetal on the kitchen floor? Is it that bass beat at a party or the ticking of clocks? Should I get a new haircut, should I change all the locks? And if he doesn't get his letter Will it make you feel better? Deus ex machina When you're under the weather
---- Not every suicide makes the news Or wants to These days Sad architecture looms in your eyes And all that remains is a gap in the railings I saw your little sister She said she drew this picture Of houses in the distance Be brave...
KNIGHT -> KING 4 Tomorrow I die like a king And my victories will not mean a thing My empire is lost, I'll be hung on a cross And my subjects forget how to sing I once was an angry young man Born with a gun in my hand I wasted two bullets on vengeful rhetoric And quietly changed my demands Tonight I make love like a King for tomorrow I don't mean a thing In the arms of a man, how he moves in my hand And he dies without any warning We die... Tomorrow I die like a king And my victories will not mean a thing My empire is lost, I'll be hung on a cross And my subjects forget how to sing I once was an angry young man To your door I would nail my demands I loved you free market, but I've chosen darkness And the feel of a sword in my hand Tomorrow I die like a King And my statue will not mean a thing 'Cause all that remains is the plaque with my name And another sad storm gathering We die... My spires and fires and latent desires I retire and expire I'm greatly admired Though ire and fire have broke me entirely nowAll lyrics are, naturally, copyright the band.
Parts checked with official versions on the PWL website.