News Track By Track: Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
Photo Credit: Emma Swann
The wait is finally over for previous DIY First On-ers, alt-J’s debut album, ‘An Awesome Wave’. Due out this Monday (tomorrow), the band talk us through the entire opus, track by track.
‘Intro’ is an acknowledgement to everything that we’ve listened to in our life as a group of people, and how consciously, it’s influenced our music. We talked about a ‘nod to the canon’, so it’s a bit of a wink to the body of work - music, books, film, everything - that’s been involved in our lives. Just saying thank you for all of that inspiration.
It’s basically about a young woman who wants to live a care-free life, avoiding all the obstacles that you normally face; grief-free and happy all of the time. She basically has a bit of a moan to the people above, and they answer her by a lot of dogs barking. They tell her that, to appreciate the good, you must experience the bad, the rough with the smooth. Like all good fruit, the balance of life is in the ripe and the ruin, and it’s about finding balance.
‘Tessellate’ is about getting over a girl. Then, at the same time, getting intimate with another girl, and maybe that being a good way to get over the experience of the previous girl; by meeting a new girl and tessellating to her.
‘Breezeblocks’ references Where The Wild Things Are and is about liking someone so much, that you want to hurt them. It’s basically based upon the book. So, it’s translating the narrative of the book to a generic relationship, where you miss them so much, you’re threatening to eat them because you wanted them to stay.
This is just guitar. There’s no real story other than, it’s a nice bit of guitar. In the background, there’s actually me and our producer having a chat with the cleaning lady of the studio. We’re just talking about how nice the weather is.
‘Something Good’ again focuses on a girl. It’s about distraction and about enjoying your time going out and forgetting about a particular person. ‘Something good tonight will make me forget about you for now.’ It also talks about the matador and the bull, and their relationship with each other. In the song, the bull ends up killing the matador and that represents the death of your clinging to a particular person. You’ve gone out, you’ve had a really good time and realised you don’t need that person.
‘Dissolve Me’ is about two different things. It’s about a friend of mine, but it’s also about my mum. She used to tell me a story before I would go to bed about going to the beach, and she would run through a list of what we had packed, what I was wearing, what people were doing around us. She would do it in a very hushed voice and it would send me to sleep. The song is a nod to that routine that my mum used to do before I went to bed when I was very young.
It’s about a film called Léon by this guy called Luc Besson. The song is about Léon’s last moments before he ends up blowing himself up. Right at the end of the film his arch rival says, “This is from Matilda.” The song is about that moment, and goes a little bit into their relationship and how they needed each other and discovered something special in a very brief meeting.
‘Ms’ is about, again, a friend of mine. It’s basically about not wanting to lose touch but realising that you have let go of the feelings that you once had for that person. Even though there was a hangover from the relationship that we had, the more important thing is to keep in contact and work things out as friends.
‘Fitzpleasure’ is about a book called Last Exit To Brooklyn, which, during each chapter, focuses on a different person within the same area. This song focusses on a chapter called Tralala and is about a woman who uses her sexuality to get certain types of low-lives and soldiers into bed with her, before she steals their money. She hangs around gangs and is involved in petty crime, so the song is about her, and more specifically, what happens to her at the end of the chapter. She meets quite a nasty end. So, at the beginning of the song when we sing, ‘Tra-la-la-la-la,’ we’re actually saying the character’s name.
There’s no story to this other than just playing piano and me singing along to it.
The title of the album is a reference to ‘Bloodflood’, because ‘an awesome wave’ is the first line that I sing. That comes from the book American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, where he talks about ‘the relief washing over him like an awesome wave.’ It’s the scene in which Patrick Bateman goes to a restaurant with his fellow colleagues, and he hasn’t booked a table but they think he has. So, he goes up to the maître d’ and he thinks he’s going to embarrass him in front of his friends, but to his surprise, there seems to be a table available. We took the idea of that feeling of relief washing over you like a wave and replaced the relief with fear. The song is about the fear of being attacked in a particular area in Southampton called The Common. It just addresses those feelings of fear and adrenaline rushes.
‘Taro’ is about two war photographers – Robert Capa and Gurda Taro – who met during the second world war. They became lovers and got engaged to one another and were head over heels, then Gurda Taro was killed. I don’t think Robert Capa ever got over it. He died about ten years later in Indochina, when he stepped on a landmine, so the song documents those moments just before, during and after he steps onto it. It’s basically talking about those moments and how he knows that he’s dying, but that he’s going to be seeing Gerda Taro soon.
Alt-J’s debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ will be released on 28th May via Infectious Music.
Taken from the June 2012 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.
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