Emily Rowan. BA Photography student and embroidery enthusiast
Blog and personal conundrums
I am enjoying rare bliss tonight - a very peaceful and quiet evening with the house to myself. My parents seldom go out but tonight they have and won’t be back until late and my sister is at her boyfriend’s. It is so nice to be able to come in from a tiring weekend at work and just sit quietly on the sofa, curled up with a pillow watching some (not so) quality TV. I took an undisturbed nap on the sofa. I am now sitting at my dining room table while listening to The Best of Jesus and Mary Chain and after I finish writing this I’m going to settle back on the sofa with my pillow to watch a film before going to bed.
This is nice, how evenings are supposed to be. Relaxed and carefree. When my parents are here I always feel like I should be doing something and using my time wisely. Through no hinting or persuasion by them, I just feel smothered very quickly and find it hard to relax when they’re around and I guess if you can’t relax you may as well use your time productively. Tonight all I feel is I should be doing is enjoying this opportunity to be lady of the (small, semi-detached and on a busy, main road) manor while I can.
I am leaning more and more towards looking for somewhere to live by myself when I start uni in September. I assumed a place to myself would be way out of my price range but after looking online at some studios and small flats my ideal doesn’t seem completely out of the question. The place I end up with may be a little small but after twenty one years with rarely a moment to myself this is a compromise I’m definitely willing to consider. More than foods or alcohol or the sudden encompassing urge to listen to a specific band or song, time and space to myself is the vice I most often find myself craving.
I have started my new job in London, a transfer from one posh English supermarket to another and so far so good. The store is always busy, right next to Gloucester Road tube (so never a far walk) and the people are a different type but still friendly and welcoming. I was offered the role of Team Leader last year at my Bishops Stortford store until the current one decided she would stay but at my new Gloucester Road I will have to work my way up again. I’m very much used to knowing what’s going on and being the one in control and though I’m proud of how quickly I’ve adapted to a new routine and way of working, the hardest adjustment I’m having to make is not always being entirely sure of myself. Even though I’m doing the same job in the same company, inevitably each store does things slightly differently and for a while I’ll be second guessing and double checking until I find my place in their team. Which is expected and fine but has been tricky and frustrating for me at times over the three shifts I’ve completed there so far.
It feels good though to be pushed out of my comfort zone, kicked out of my safe Bishops Stortford nest and being conditioned to fly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the small town girl, as a lot of girls in my town seem to be and adults who don’t know me assume I am, but I know Stortford like the back of my hand and have had the same job for five years. Apart from becoming a manager and renting a flat in Stortford, which is definitely not something I want to do, I have taken my life here as far as it can go and at 21 it’s about time I shook things up, starting following something real and left my parents house in the hope of never turning back.
I am finally returning to Scotland tomorrow and I will be staying until Thursday. My trip coincides with the Glasgow leg of the comeback Bloc Party gigs and one of the bands I’m currently most excited about, The Chapman Family, are also playing. Not counting T in the Park last July it has been fourteen months since I was last in Glasgow and the closer it gets the more excited I am to catch up with these old friends of mine in their glorious city and to having time away from my house and Bishops Stortford.
Seeing two quality live bands just comes as a bonus really.
There’s something about good, old-fashioned rage that still resonates. The Chapman Family should know, if anyone does. No matter what approach they take on ‘Burn Your Town’, it is clear that they are as mad as hell and that they aren’t going to take it anymore, whatever ‘it’ is. ‘It’ has probably got something to do with politics, as that is one of the things that has informed their long-awaited debut’s lyrical content.
If the band, fronted by Kingsley Chapman, had capitalised on the buzz generated by their superb performance on the 2009 NME Radar Tour, chances are that their first album would have been an entirely different animal to what it eventually became. They waited, however, and the best thing about ‘Burn Your Town’ is not that they threw everything they could think of in there and took the album-making process to the absolute nth degree, but that they couldn’t have timed its release more perfectly if they’d tried.
There is a sense of ominous dread that runs through the album, in tune with the times. Uncertainty is clearly evident, so it perhaps appropriate that a song like ‘A Certain Degree’ opens proceedings. Its eerie atmosphere is one thing I did not expect from a band like this, I have to admit, but it does a fine job of getting things underway, before the thunderous drums and buzz-saw guitars of ‘All Fall’ take things up a notch or five. ‘So much more to know, so much more to suffer,’ Kingsley sings, already sounding defeated two songs in.
This theme, the idea of knowledge being harmful, crops up at certain other places on the record, like on ‘1000 Lies’ (fact fans: despite the similar-sounding title, this song is not a reworked ‘Lies Plus Lies’, which is a completely different song): ‘A million reasons to survive, a million failures to face’. The song also finds Kingsley putting the boot into political misrule with lines such as, ‘It takes a single lie for a million to die’.
Lyrically (as can already be noticed) there is plenty of doom and gloom on offer; musically, though, this isn’t the case. ‘Sound of the Radio’ and ‘Anxiety’ are a pair of perfect pop songs, the former unable to help itself in making the listener think of a more upbeat Editors (it’s the guitar solo), and the latter sounding unexpectedly cheerful for a song containing lines like, ‘They say your best isn’t good enough’. There are two shades evident on the album, two shades of black, one seeming infinitely darker than the other. This is a brooding, uncomfortable listen, but is made even more powerful for it.
An album like this, one that contains such levels of frustration and pent-up anger, needs some time to vent, and if it’s been building up until the declaration that ‘the kids are not alright today’ on an insanely fast re-recording of debut single ‘Kids’, then ‘Million Dollars’ is the point where it is released in an awe-inspiring burst. The seven-minute penultimate track features driving, complex rhythms and a stunning, drawn-out finale that’s the noisiest the band have ever been, and by their standards, that’s saying something. It’s their high-water mark thus far, and even if the instrument-destroying, chaotic climax of their live sets has had to be contained a little, it doesn’t diminish in intensity one bit.
‘Million Dollars’ is the sort of song that it’s very difficult to follow. I wouldn’t have blamed the band for wrapping things up there, but instead they choose to bring things full circle. Just as ‘A Certain Degree’ was a comparatively gentle introduction to the album, a reprise of ‘Virgins’ closes the album in a grand flourish. From its (almost) acapella beginning to the insistent riff that brings the curtain down on the album, it manages to be every bit as powerful, in its own way, as the rest of the record.
‘Burn Your Town’ benefited greatly from the extra time The Chapman Family spent with it. It is a complete album from start to finish, perfectly structured and boasting ten superb songs. All other British debuts due this year, this is what you have to compete with. Best of luck. You’ll need it.88%