Blue Aeroplanes, The


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Inverting Radiohead’s ‘honesty box’ policy for ‘In Rainbows’ and fixed price for ‘King of Limbs’, in typically contrary fashion, the new Blue Aeroplanes LP is released on vinyl prior to its appearance on CD and download. Buoyed by the massive critical praise for the reissue of their 1990 magnum opus ‘Swagger’, and 2006’s renaissance ‘Altitude’, these recent triumphs have set a high bar for Gerard Langley and his co-pilots to aim for. Fortunately, ‘Anti-Gravity’, working on the same titular theme to ‘Altitude’ finds the band being able to achieve exactly that. Over a quarter of a century since their first appearance, the LP thrums with the same energy as their early recordings.

Their mélange of folk, rock and spoken word narratives finds the Aeroplanes sounding totally contemporary, their literate, driving, rock jangle slotting in nicely alongside the likes of the Hold Steady and the Shins. Opening with ‘Sulphur’, emerging out of the sound of fireworks into cascading, semi-acoustic arpeggios, gradually reaching the melodic plateau of the chorus, the song provides irrefutable proof the ‘Planes can handle pop songs

The self-autobiographical lyric of ‘Angela Carter’ draws the listener in, the musical backing the chassis for Gerard’s tale of collaborating with the late author on a novel that never saw the light of day. ’25 Kinds of Love’, a gnarly garage rocker, offers an alternative update of Paul Simon’s ‘Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover’. “He only wrote about seven,” vocalist Gerard Langley ruefully notes.

By contrast, Sufjan Stevens’ acolyte St. Vincent has her track ‘Laughing with a Mouthful of Blood’ reworked into the resigned ‘My Old Haunts’. The band’s long-held fascination for acoustic/ electric instrumentation shines through on the softly pattering, mandolin led ‘Nothing’ whilst ‘Oak Apple Day’ shimmers along on acoustic guitars and Ry Cooder-esque lap steel.

Kicking off Side Two (very satisfying to be able to use the term in a review), ‘Go Along With Me on This One’ mines the same stentorian strum of mid-period R.E.M. tracks like ‘Finest Worksong’. The influence of their former touring partners can also be detected on ‘Pretty Head’, its wonderfully spring-heeled riff dimly reminiscent of the Athens, Georgia crew’s ‘Disturbance at the Heron House’.

‘Great Movie Clichés’ continues the Americana element, its close miked vocal and country fiddle coming across like ‘Desire’ era Dylan. ‘One World Passport’ meanwhile, a compelling collision of demonic propulsion of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’with an ascending guitar riff is offset by a lengthy Langley lyric about the current parlous state of the world. The six minute ‘Cancer Song’, bookends the LP with a hazily somnambulistic melodic stumble, concluding proceedings on a restful note.

As the title of the penultimate track ‘Born Again, Again’ suggests, the Blue Aeroplanes’ are indeed that, their art/rock/folk narratives chiming in perfectly with current developments. If there’s any justice the Aeroplanes will win more passengers on their onward journey towards their thirtieth year, as on this evidence they sound as vital and as energized as they did during their early 90’s peak.

– Richard Lewis (

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Track Listings

A1 Sulphur
A2 Angela Carter
A3 25 Kinds Of Love
A4 Oak - Apple Day
A5 My Old Haunts (Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood)
A6 Nothing

B1 Go Along With Me On This One
B2 Great Movie Cliches
B3 Pretty Head (Raising Cain & Pulses)
B4 One World Passport
B5 Born Again, Again
B6 Cancer Song

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