'Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’ from Welcome, Stranger! by The Blue Aeroplanes
Clare Wadd, once one half of the Sarah Records empire, recently penned a lovely piece for Caught By The River in which she recounts a weekend spent walking Bristol, reflecting on places with specific connection to the constructed mythology of Sarah. There are mentions of There And Back Again Lane and Victoria Park and I mention this mainly because both feature too in Blue Aeroplanes’ ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’. If you didn’t know (and of course you do, because you are reading about the Unpopular advent and by doing so are amongst that rare breed who are infused with the same trivial (mis)understandings of Pop connectivity as myself, for which you have my deepest sympathy) Blue Aeroplanes are perhaps Bristol’s finest middle-aged keepers of the esoteric rock’n’roll illusion. I mean, it’s not the sort of thing I’d want to stand on sticky floors at The Fleece to experience ‘in the flesh’ as it were (and I’m speaking from experience here) but on record I admit they retain a power to stir some kind of warped emotion in my wilted soul.
Welcome Stranger! welcomed in 2017 with a Pop! Art! slingshot, and if on occasion it dropped into a parallel universe where the dreariest rock references emerged victorious over the poetic pretensions (sorry, but ‘Skin’, for me, just seems to belong to a different record. And not in a good way) then there were enough highlights for this to feel like a splendid swirl of heady symbolist poetry. It’s almost certainly best on ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’, wherein Gerard Langley insists loudly that there is no symbolism, thereby ensuring there is nothing but. The Dead Tree! in question resides in Victoria Park (I’m surprised Clare did not spot it. Perhaps she did and thought it was just a dead tree) and Langley leads his band in a strange jig around it like a gang of reprobate Morris dancers round a Maypole. Langley's lyrical bent is a weakness to some, a strength to others. Me, I like it a great deal and I admit that when I hear him intone about never getting what he asked for and therefore never asking anymore it rings in my ear as though lines from Sylvia Plath. In a snap of a finger I am transported back to being a far too earnest and impressionable twenty something and damn you Langley, damn you. The lines work the transformative power of Pop Art Poetry though and there we go and here we are, carousing around our Dead Trees and flailing our memories to within inches of their lives. We say ‘thank you’ and retire.
Oh if only, if only.