It's Not Me, It's You
Those were the days when I still felt moderately excited about the possibility of selling lots of records and people thinking I was great as a result. Nowadays, I want people to just think that I'm great without me having to write any songs, which is a hopeful supposition , but hey, that's the kind of hulking brute that I am. It was the second album by The Free French; the first was kind of an accident, a home project that ended up morphing into a record that suddenly required a band to be formed in order to play it. So this one already had a band formed to play it, but I played everything myself – except the drums – because that's the kind of controlling, hulking brute that I am.
I think it's better than Lily Allen's record, although I haven't heard Lily Allen's record, and I made this one myself, so who am I to say. I have this small hope that fat-fingered simpletons on Amazon will buy my record instead of hers by accident, but as Pinnacle Distribution has gone bust, I feel fairly certain that no money will leak back into my fluff-laden pockets. Oh well. As per Momus and Vichy Government, here's my track-by-track recollection. Cos I'm in, on a Friday, on my own.
Courageous opening to an album, I know. No drums, just me being slightly lovelorn, a wailing saw, some Prefab Sprouty chord-shifts and an overcompressed vocal. One webzine reviewed the album and didn't get any further than this track, just gave the record a monumental slagging for being "poofy" or something, although I know I'm misquoting. Thing is, it just didn't seem to fit anywhere else on the record, so I thought putting it first would be a good idea. In retrospect, I can honestly say that this was not the most important decision I've ever had to make in my life.
One thing about this album is that many of the songs are about various women. I'm sorry about that. It was shortly after splitting up with my wife, and a few months before I met Jenny. And hey, if you can't use members of the opposite sex for inspiration, what can you use? What's that? Corporation tax? I don't think so, sir. This was about a just-about-platonic relationship with someone who had a boyfriend – hence the line, uh, "the like that dare not speak its name", or whatever it was. I performed this live on BBC 6 Music. It sounded fucking awful. This, however, is pretty good. I like it.
Bookended by a Gershwin-esque piano figure, it's a rollocking tune about someone who I went on an internet date with. She'd just been sacked as a copywriter for a big ad agency. She had dual US / UK nationality. The evening was an utter, utter disaster on every level. The "A E I O Yeah" chorus is remarkably stupid, and I'm curiously proud of it. Good drumming from Ken. I wish I'd known more about mixing music at this stage in my life, I'd have done a much better job of it.
It's Not Me, It's You
Title track. I remember coming up with the idea when I was getting drunk with Keith. He laughed. He said "I bet someone's already used that." His girlfriend at the time rolled her eyes, and said something about there being nothing intrinsically amusing about just turning well known phrases inside out. She was probably right.
Anyway. This isn't really about anyone or anything. I bloody love the middle section. The backing vocals – "Isle Of Wight", "torrential rain" – always made us piss ourselves laughing in rehearsals. Yum. Rare attempt by myself at playing something akin to a guitar solo.
oh, you and i should have a talk
we used to be like knife and fork
but now we're more like pizza and glue
Making A List
This was a really half-arsed last-minute inclusion, but ended up being one of the best things on here, at least, that's what spoombung said at the time. A friend of mine who worked for, er, Reuters, was talking about her recent history of dozens of utterly appalling boyfriends, and as someone who was in a fairly lean period, I found that interesting verging on unbelievable. So yeah, the usual compare, contrast. "The crossword girl in the Festival Hall with the wit so dry" – she was sitting at the bar doing the crossword in the Evening Standard, and this was on September 13th 2001, when basically everyone thought the world was ending. "I'm surprised you could even get through that newspaper and still feel like doing a crossword," I said. "I wasn't so much reading it," she said, "as collecting words to put into the crossword at the end of it." I was stupefied by this. If you're reading this, don't contact me, I've got a girlfriend now, goddamnyou.
Everyone's favourite, it seems. (I say "everyone", by which I mean "2 people".) I can see why. I mean, it's a great tune, and it's a nice lyric, and when I was writing it I kind of knew that I was rounding off edges that would otherwise have been left in, just to make it very Squeeze-like and uncomplicated. "I wouldn't exactly call myself a doctor" was nicked off a Danny Baker broadcast that made me laugh.
Because I've had half a bottle of wine to myself at this stage, I should just say as an aside that I'm amazed I came up with some of this stuff. I honestly don't really know how I did it. Not cos it's amazing, just that I can't imagine doing it now. Hm. Anyway. I'm proud of rhyming "vagueness" with "Vegas". Is all.
Ah, yes. Good chorus coming up, I think. Someone said to me once that it reminded him of The Smiths, and that he imagined me performing it at Brixton Academy while people threw flowers at me. Stupid idiot. This was another internet date, I'm afraid. "Strange assessment of the speed that they drive" – we were walking up Balham High Road, and I was floundering for conversation, so I pointed at a passing car that was gently rolling past, and said "how fast do you think that car is going?" She said "I dunno, perhaps 60mph". There was a long silence, followed by childish giggling. Good moment. We're still friends. Oh god, I've just heard the arpeggiator at the end of the last chorus. Yamaha CS2X. Erk.
Same person that Plastic Stars was about. For her 30th birthday, she decided to go trekking in the Himalayas on her own. Self-explanatory. I'd decided to do a song with this ludicrously brash 6/8 swing after hearing a song by Shudder To Think, I forget which one. So I combined their swaggering cock-rock with a far larger dose of disgustingly English whimsy. Sorry about that. Again, quite proud of getting the word "dungarees" in there.
Oh! My favourite line: "Hilariously unprepared but, crucially, prepared to have a go." That almost makes me sigh. My sis, who played keyboards in the band, said that she was on the bus when she was listening to this for the first time, and she burst out laughing in the big guitar solo at the end, which isn't like her at all.
This was always one of my favourites. It's odd, when you get into a compositional groove, you just seem to stumble across good ideas without even trying. The cycle of chords in the chorus is just hilarious, the kind of thing you want to keep going for bloody ages, which is eventually what I try doing at the end. A friend of mine wrote (and still writes) books which are credited to a more famous author, so I pondered on a scenario where the ghost writer just buggered off and left the celeb to try shoehorning a book together. I wince at some of the rhymes, but hey, I was young, it was OK. And a big "Nantucket Sleighride" final chord, too. BOOSH!
This suffered a bit from us playing it so bloody often at gigs, but it's a lovely slow-burner thing. I honestly have no idea how I could possibly have come up with this. Sorry, I think I'm repeating myself.
Am I the only person who absolutely dreads getting a cold, or a stomach bug, or whatever, mainly because I'm appalled that I'll miss out on perhaps one evening of pleasant chat and diverting distraction? That's what I'm on about here, I think.
Didn't Want To Get Involved
If You Say So
I'm bracketing these two together for two reasons – a) because I've written 1700 words so far, which seems a tad excessive, and b) because if I'd put the record together today, I'd probably have left them out. Thing is, when you're making music and excited about it, it's very difficult to exercise quality control and leave stuff out. Especially if you're an anal completist like me who believes in documenting absolutely everything. They're not bad songs, at all – Ken the drummer was persistently irritated that I never wanted to play "Didn't Want" at gigs – but the thing is, both songs aren't really about anything. They're from the Oasis school of lyric writing (albeit with a slightly more imaginative turn of phrase) that forces you to just piece a song together from scraps of words that vaguely sound meaningful, even though they aren't. And that kind of lack of commitment to a song just filters through to the music, too. Still. Oh! "My crystal ball's wrapped in Sellotape" is quite good.
One interesting thing: if there were suddenly people clamouring for us to reform, I wouldn't be able to sing half these songs, they're just too high. Alcohol and general manliness has forced my range down a good 8 semitones. Cough.
How Vicious We Are
The finale. This is about my friend Vic, who I went with to watch Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer the other night. When we met in 2001 via a mutual friend, I was feeling shite, I think she was too, we got on famously. We're both grumpy bastards with sharp tongues, so I wrote her this song as a Christmas present. It's my favourite on the record. 7-bar loops are good. Take note, pop-kids. You don't have to do 8-bar loops. People will still keep jumping up and down, you know. Take some risks, if they're as pathetic as just chopping out one bar.
So, there you go. It sold virtually nothing. We pressed thousands. Many of them ended up being recycled. Fortunately, thanks to the mp3, this odd document of me being 30 years old will live on, at least for the next twenty minutes.