Friday, 30 September 2016
Oliver: Revolver - Peel Session (22 February 1992)
Mixtaping is supposed to be easy. Listen to tracks - those you like are kept, those you don't like are rejected. At its root, it sounds simple, but every so often nuances crop up which leave you questioning your instinct, judgement and taste - while living with the spectre of the question that hangs over every mixtaper: why did I choose to preserve this?
Such has been the case with the band Revolver, formed in London, circa 1990 and their session for Peel recorded on September 12 1991. Revolver have been chafing at my ears almost since I started this blog when Peel played the track, Drowning Inside on one of his November 1991 shows. From its beautifully classical arpeggios through to the little key change towards the end of the song which made me think of the way my mid-90s band, Extraordinary, would try and do similar things in our songs to make them seem more harmonically interesting (unfortunately, we couldn't really do any of the things that Revolver would do before they reached their key changes, hence why we stayed in the garage while they went out and got signed and did Peel Sessions), 95% of my brain said in response to it, "This is a great pop song". But somehow the 5% going, "It's by the numbers indie" won out. The same thing happened when I heard bits of their session on the 23/11/91 show. In fact, the live version of Drowning Inside saw my brain capacity jump to 10% worth of derision.
It took until the repeat of the session on 22/2/92 for me to wake up and fully appreciate how good these tunes were. These four tunes, at times, sound like what an electric guitar was made for. There's grandeur, compassion, longing, empathy for the outsider and the disaffected in this music. The third track, Wave, even manages to pull off that George Martin trick of creating sound pictures - the opening minute wonderfully evoking the approaching ocean as the listener lies waiting for it to break over you. And once it does so, the restorative power of the waters has you up and running through the spray like you could swim forever. But just in case this all feels too elemental and ethereal, there's the brute force of instrumental session closer, John's Not Mad, which channels The Mono Men, The Stooges and the whole garage movement, though the excessive feedback wankery at the end almost spoils it for me.
And it's details like that which have meant that while trying to prepare this post, I've turned mental cartwheels and flip-flopped constantly over this session. I've veered between liking none, half and all of the tracks. The big problem has been Matt Flint's vocals. In among this stirring, majestic, powerful musical background, they are either too nasal, too high or too whiny - but he can still floor me with lines like "The words just stumble out my mouth/I've never been upset by sounds" in session opener, Crimson. A pean to awkward communication worthy of Daniel Johnston. And even when he's straining for that key change in Drowning Inside, I can't help but think back to 1992 and know that the jump on "Lie on the ground with a light in my head" would be the template for my own doomed attempts to be a singer by the middle of the decade. And I can only, ultimately, acknowledge
the unspoken debt, put the carping aside, and give in to a magnificent session.
Video courtesy of Vibracobra23