Build Library Here (Or Else!)

This last few days, Claire and I have been listening to a hell of a lot of the new Pagan Wanderer Lu album, Build Library Here (Or Else!). And it’s such an impressive album that I’ve decided to write a little about it here, in the hope that some of you who’ve never heard of PWL before will take enough interest that you’ll download a few tracks (or persuade me to pirate some in your general direction), that you might enjoy them and the world will be a happier place. Oh; and so you might actually buy a copy of Build Library Here (Or Else!), ‘cos the artist is a great guy but is somewhat penniless:

Build Library Here (Or Else!) touches upon a combination of things going on both inside the songwriter and in the bigger picture, all put forward through a combination of intelligent lyrics, guitar, keyboard, and electronic/synthesised music. The Ending Makes What Came Before A Story is a slow acoustic piece with a soft chorus, which always reminds me of quite how easy it is to find pattern in something that you want to; whether in superstition or self-confidence. Or perhaps it’s about finding closure in hindsight. Good Christian/Bad Christian is a very danceable electronic affair: “I come to you with plans to be your leader – I come to you sing I’m a believer: Good Christian/Bad Christian… Baghdad can’t tell the difference,” sings PWL, in this politically and religiously fired-up song, challenging the link between state and religion that’s more obvious than ever in our terrorism-fuelled God-fearing Western democracies, with undertones of the association people mistakenly make between religion and morality. Keep The Weather Out is happy and bouncy; telling – on the surface – the story of a young couple buying a house for the first time and “settling down”, and the things that they consider important to making their house a home… with obvious references to tabloid-inspired xenophobia. Claire plays concertina in the background, and a strange synth drum-slapping session two and a half minutes in acts as a reminder that you are still listening to Pagan Wanderer Lu… in case you’d forgotten…

(Sick of) Playing Solo is, as Claire put it, possibly the bluntest, least-subtle Lu song ever. So far as anybody can see, there’re no deeply hidden meanings to go digging for; no clever run-on concepts to trip your brain up on; no second-listen “magic”. It is, essentially, an advertisement: but it’s a really, really good advertisement. Right from the start (and players of The Game will hate the second line) it presents a catchy, listenable tune, with frequent breaches of the fourth wall as the musician makes reference to his absent band and the things he’d love for them to be doing right now – with demonstrations. It’s fascinating to think that, owing to the complexity of the track, we may never see it played live ‘solo’, and the meaning is somewhat lost played with a band. I laughed out loud the first time I heard this song.

The Memorial Hall is my favourite song on the whole album. Even it’s musical peculiarities are remarkable and fascinating, such as the fact that it changes from 3/4 to 4/4 time some way into the song, without an awkward ‘jump’. These two parts each carry their own musical style: sombre and slow, and happy and disco-ey. It talks about the reasons for war, the arguments resulting from them, and the reactions of the people ‘left home’ in times of conflict, and comes to the startling realisation that the only valid purpose of modern warfare is to allow folks to dance at their local memorial hall disco. It makes reference to The Ending Makes What Came Before A Story, and leaves a catchy tune in your head that’ll soon take over your life in the way that (You And Me And) Winston Churchill, an earlier Pagan Wanderer Lu song, did before. It’s a remarkable song.

Show Me Yr Knuckles is worth a listen, 2 Bullets is good, although I can’t help but feel I’m missing something when listening to it, O Peter! (Won’t You Hear My Mournful Strum?) is an unusually deep-sounding, dramatic track, At The Hairdressers… is a masterful song about life, and death, and the triviality of it all in the eyes of anybody else, Harp & Chainsaw is an enjoyable experimental-sounding romp, and Yr On My Shoulder is a spectacular dive into personal ethics on which Claire and I are undecided whether the author is concerned with justification of his actions to himself (in a Marillion “Uninvited Guest” style ballad) or to somebody else: the lyrics could be read either way. Either way, it’s a stunning song.

Jabita Nu-Orleenz and Goodnight / Nos Da are both a little… weird, even for me. They’re still quite listenable, but there are perhaps boundaries in experimental up-and-coming music that even I’m not quite ready to venture into.

All in all, a fab CD.

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