Track-by-Track: XX Teens welcome all to Goon Island
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Some clever-clogs with their ears tight to the London art-school rock underground will know that today marks the release of XX Teens’ anticipated debut album, Welcome To Goon Island. Seeing as DiS is a little partial to the band’s quirky Fall-ish tales, both dizzy tall and entirely anchored in the everyday, we invited them to pen us a track-by-track guide to the LP. And this, this is it.
The DiS verdict on Welcome To Goon Island will be published later in the week. The below words are written by the band’s Rich Cash and Anthony Silvester.
Welcome To Goon Island cover art
1. ‘The Way We Were’
Rich: No one should ever really be allowed to start a song with the lines: “Well I remember when we were young, we used to have so much fun”. But we just did it and no one punished us, so we learnt nothing.
Anthony: I’d written the music first and sent it to Rich, and he e-mailed me a demo with the melodies when I was on holiday, in America. I felt incredibly cosmopolitan. We often say how good it’d be if we lived in different parts of the world.
Rich: It’s about young boys in a hurry to grow up. They all act tough and churlish to the passer by, but really they’re quite sweet and innocent. They think they’ve made a baby but it turns out to be a snake, and the snake eats the passer by.
Anthony: Our old bassist Rich Nuvo started playing the bassline and I began to play the slide guitar over the top. I liked it so I took it home and re-jigged the bass and then wrote the chorus and verses. We wanted to make a proper sing-along chorus but Rich wouldn’t know what we meant by the chorus, as he’d only see it in terms of words. It was funny.
Rich: This is a scene in The Adventures of a Black Girl in her Search for God. She’s been taught Christianity by missionaries but she still hasn’t found God, so she sets off into the forest to find him. She meets all sorts of different people, like all the different Gods in the Bible, and in the end she marries a gardener.
Anthony: The music to this one is influenced by Timbaland. When we got to the studio Ross [Orton, producer of Welcome To Goon Island] said, “Look, we can do the Slits if that’s what you want, or we can go this way…” That was one of the brilliant things about working with Ross, he didn’t have any of my hang ups about guitars or hip-hop, things that I adore but didn’t have the guts to push.
4. ‘Ba (Ba-Ba Ba)’
Rich: This is about missing someone. When we released it on our own label we recorded the words live, from a pub, down the phone. The idea sounded good but the record sounded shit.
Anthony: I think this is my favourite of Rich’s songs, the idea that there’s poetry in getting pissed is a very alluring one. I did always worry, though, that we were doing that other cliché: ‘the indie kid does reggae’.
Video: ‘Ba (Ba-Ba Ba)’ (original release version)
Anthony: I was trying to put lots of quite different types of music together. The chorus was supposed to have an ephemeral quality to it, but it also had these heavy tribal beats pushing it along. The middle-eight section at the end was inspired by ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’.
Rich: The words come from the time of the London bombs. It seemed like people were losing their identity. Lots of people were rushing around saying silly things, even some people that are normally alright. I’d just read about Lysistrata and I remember thinking, why don’t your wives and girlfriends tell you to stop being dicks?
Anthony: I always write bits of music that I know won’t become songs. This used to be at the end of a song called ‘How to Reduce the Chances of Being a Terror Victim’. It sounded to me like something you’d hear if ‘the bomb’ dropped. Coming from a seaside town, it’s got lots of other connotations for me too.
Rich: It was good playing this after the terrorism song because we’d keep working the song up until it reached a sort of shrill panic and then, all of a sudden, you’d be back in an England full of small towns and careful gardens. It made it funnier.
7. ‘Only You’
Anthony: I wrote this song ages ago and had a friend translate it into French, I think partly because I’ve always been a fan of David Bowie’s French and German versions of ‘Heroes’ and partly because I didn’t have the guts to sing it in English. It’s about a time when I couldn’t get out of bed for a week because I was in a rather dark place. I don’t think it’s a love song really; it’s more about being self absorbed.
Rich: There’s two really good things about this song: me on the tambourine and Anthony crying. It’s perfect.
Video: ‘Only You’
8. ‘My Favourite Hat’
Rich: There’s a music hall tradition of songs about hats, there used to be one club that specialised in singing only songs about hats. There’s a recording of one called ‘The Matinee Hat’, but I don’t think many others were ever recorded. You just have to imagine what they were all about.
Anthony: This track always makes me grin because it’s so dumb. Ross couldn’t stop pissing himself laughing, he let Rich do what he liked. If Rich turned up with a pineapple and a stick and said, “Can we put this on too?”, Ross would oblige.
Rich: I think this is the song that gets us called bonkers. We release it as often as possible, like Noah’s dove. When it doesn’t come back with ‘bonkers’ stamped on its face we’ll know we’ve found dry land.
Anthony: It’s a shame that we released the other versions of this song because this one’s easily the best, by a mile. There’s marching, and whistling and congas - it brings out the carnival feel we were going for.
Video: ‘Darlin’’ (full-length single version)
10. ‘Sun Comes Up’
Rich: I liked it better when the words were samples of BNP speeches, but I also like this version.
Anthony: He always says that about preferring the other version, I think merely to upset me. We were able to make this the psychedelic monster it always should have been. The song was partially inspired by Rich’s stubbornness in refusing to write words for it.
11. ‘For Brian Haw’
Rich: Brian Haw’s the peace protester who lives in Parliament Square. The government made a new set of terrorism laws just to get rid of him but the High Court ruled he should be allowed to stay, because the laws were made after he’d begun his protest. After hundreds of years of the right to peaceful protest, there’s now only one man with the right to protest in front of Westminster. The police sometimes arrest him unlawfully and take away his display, especially when the government want to impress foreign visitors, like the Chinese Prime Minister, with how free and democratic we are here. One night 78 police officers came for him.
Anthony: We washed out the vocals a bit because we didn’t want them coming for us.
Welcome To Goon Island is out now via Mute. Find XX Teens on MySpace here and see them live as follows:
29 London White Heat @ Madame Jojos
8 London Underage Festival
10 Hereford Jailhouse
22 Leeds Festival
24 Reading Festival
30 Chigwell Offset Festival
5 Isle of Wight Bestival