A is for Aislers Set
I haven't written anything about the things I've been listening to and reading for such a long time I think I've forgotten how to do it. Maybe this will end up as proof, and maybe it's always been the case, I don't really know. That's for someone else to decide. The pile of things to write about has been steadily growing of course over the past months, and now if I were to write about everything it would take forever, and if it takes forever to write it'll take forever to read so maybe it's all for the best after all. So here I am, on the Sunday morning one of my cats has disappeared (forgive me, therefore if the enthusiasm slips at times), sifting through the accumulations of contemporary culture and finding the highlights…
I'm going to start with A because that seems a sensible place when my brain is fuzzy, but just don't expect the same logic throughout. And first and foremost, A, of course, is for Aislers Set.
I first heard the Aislers Set when I was sitting in a park in Bilbao in June '99. I was watching the Basques come and go, making rudimentary drawings in my sketchbook, and listening to the first Aislers Set album, Terrible Things Happen on my headphones. It was a fantastic experience, not least because of Amy Linton's natural grasp of the balance required between melody and noise to create great Pop. Anyone who has picked up the latest Aislers Set record The Last Match will already know those things to be true of course, but for those of you who have been as shoddy in your purchases as I have been in my ability to write about things at the time of their appearance, well, here's a few more words of persuasion:
Reach across a crowded room and feel the warmth of skin touching your arm. Follow the trace of a neck with your eyes and wonder what name you could give to the blue of those eyes. Remember the scent of too many yesterdays, imagine the sorrow of all the tomorrows without seeing the things you cannot help but grow to love. Imagine a world without the rush of Pop music and songs that make you know you can touch the moonlight. Isn't life tough? Aislers Set are all about those feelings; that immersion in the Pop experience that leads to lives being reflections of received imagery and of loves being refracted through half-remembered misheard lyrics and melodies. You live your entire life making things up and then wonder why people think you strange when you play the deserter from their realities, preferring the magic of painting the moments into artificial mirrors that never speak the truth because the truth was never real in the first place. It's all a magician's illusion, a trick of the light, a lightly kissed lip on lip with a taste of the sea. And you are in the middle of the Arizona desert.
Which doesn't help, does it? Because you want to know what the Aislers Set sound like don't you? The simple answer of course is to say 'buy the record dumb ass' but that's rude and helps no-one. Which I am not averse to, not being exactly Mr Helpful these days, but hey… to be honest the Aislers Set sound exactly like I mentioned above in my abstract nonsensical mixed up manner, and if you need a translation then do indeed just go and buy the record. Except: some highlights plucked at random would go something like:
'The Way To Market Station' is Amy doing her one man band thing again (much of the Terrible Things Happen album was Amy by herself in her garage) to great effect. Shop Assistants drumming, a '50s guitar twang and lines about 'hot hot coffee'. What more could you ask of an opener? There's more of that Shop Assistants insistent Popism on 'Been Hiding', which has as much of Amy's previous band Henry's Dress (mainly great Ramones meets the Shangri-La's bubblegum noise) as any other Aislers Set song.
'Chicago New York' is one of Wyatt's songs and if you wanted to be cruel (as I have read many being) you could say it all sounds a little too much like a bunch of one-time great Glaswegians for comfort. Fair enough, but if the last Belle & Sebastian album had more songs that sounded like this I'd have been a far happier individual. How can you resist the moment when Wyatt sings 'as much as I don't like to fly I was in the air again' and the whole song lifts into the sky in compliance? Answer: you can't.
'One Half Laughing' has some terrific cascades and a Byrds guitar ringing through it, whilst 'The Red Door' is a squalling Pop Gem, being one of those transcendent collisions of noise and melody I hinted at before, and when Amy does her faux-cheerleading act when singing about her red bicycle you just have to leap and shake your pom poms.
'The Walk' is simply gorgeous; a seductive and sensuous breeze of a song that downshifts and cruises the nooks of your heart, whilst there's more genuine yearning in 'Bang Bang Bang' than in a million mock-soul ballads. It also the most heart-breaking opening line of any song I care to recall. This song is so brittle and bruised it's beautiful. And it reminds me of too many things and that my life is too long already and that I never ever want(ed) to be a music journalist.
"Didn't have to say goodbye" indeed… and the truth is that the harshness is so much greater when there isn't that closure; when connections simply fray and fail with the pressure of time and experiences changing. The world moves on… "and you lied and I lied". There's so many people out there who've slipped the world by; too many magical artists ignored and forgotten it's criminal. To think that the Aislers Set could meet with the same fate would be one too many broken hearts to deal with.
Buy this record and fall in love.
© Alistair Fitchett 2000
B is for Baxendale