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Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Headlights on the Parade"

The Blue Nile - "Headlights on the Parade" (1989)

I think I like the B-side better. It's more piano and less synth.

I don't know why I haven't heard this song before, it sounds like it would fit right in on one of those adult-contemporary radio stations that dominate doctor's office waiting rooms and small corporate offices. In other words, it's not exactly music I like. I do like part of their origin story. After getting together in 1981, the band couldn't garner a recording contract. Local Glasgow based hi-fi audio company Linn Products asked them to record a few tracks that would show off the quality of their equipment. In a big surprise to the members of the band, and the audio company, sales really picked up, and they had a real hit on their hands. Linn and The Blue Nile stayed partnered for their second album Hats which is the album this song is on. When it was released in America, the U.S. distributor took out a full page ad in Billboard magazine offering the album on CD to anyone who called a toll free number.

The liner notes lists three musicians, all of whom play synthesizer. One is vocals and guitar, one is keyboards, and one is bass, but all are synthesizers. Notice how none of them were on drums? So pre-programed drum machines, and three guys on synthesizers. You knew this wasn't going to be my kind of song, but then the fact that it's a depressed love song makes it official. It's not the worst song I've heard, the lead singer's voice is sweet, and the performers are technically proficient, it's just elevator music as far as I'm concerned. The mix heavily favors the instruments over the singer, and while three synthesizers to produce a lush sound it's just not a soundscape I want to dive into. More like walk away from and look for a little pub where they might be playing the song live on piano, bass and guitar.

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