The new album has been out for two months, the tour is over and the string-man string is all coiled up in a drawer. So it really is high time I stopped plugging the thing and leave it alone to survive out there on its own merits and curiosities.
In other words: the Ceaseless Horror must now cease.
Before it retreats into the shadows completely, however, I feel the need to express a few thoughts about its reception/inception.
This solo album always felt very much like something I wanted to exist rather than something others wanted to exist, something that would be supplied to very little demand (indeed when I meet some audience members I get the distinct impression that anything released after The Tell-Tale Hound is little more than a footnote). But what started out as an exercise in loose-end tying became a pivotal chapter in my career as a musician.
Every Bedlam Six album/EP features one relatively pretty number smuggled in amongst the mayhem. For some reason that has always been an unspoken rule in our recording process, but I don’t really know why. Perhaps it evidences a need to demonstrate that we’re more than just good for entertaining drunks at festivals (though that is admittedly our bread and butter)… or is it a quiet scream for critical approval (though as motives go that’s a pretty dreary one)? It’s a mystery. We never play these songs live (or very rarely), we know what people come for: Fun. In the past we’ve attempted seguing into a subtle number at some stage in the set and usually the result is everyone choosing that moment to either go to the bar or nip outside for a cigarette. I don’t blame people for this – I did the same thing during the Aragorn/Arwen flashback sequences in the second Lord Of The Rings film (nothing wrong with them but they’re hardly as compelling as the siege of Helm’s Deep).
So what the hell was going through my mind when I decided to release an album entirely made up of quiet wordiness? It’s not like my acoustic shows were ever performed to reverent listening audiences hanging off every lyric and musical nuance. The band habit of keeping things upbeat very much persevered in my solo expeditions, the majority of which feature me hopping about like a jester who has lost his motley. Even the recent Gentle Songs tour mostly consisted of upbeat stuff from the Bedlam Six catalogue or newer numbers from my musical. My unwillingness to go anywhere near the bulk of my solo record (even as I was promoting it) could very well be the sort of neon-coated behavioral quirk that eager therapists use for target practice. Deep down I still believe the album to be a vanity project – and a grossly self-indulgent one at that. I also suspect I may actually be afraid of it on some bizarre level.
And yet I have received more personal messages about this record than anything I’ve put out in the past. And each one thrills me to my very core. Recently I even had an entire class of Maryland high-school juniors email me because their teacher had included the lyrics of track three in their set texts for that semester. The mind boggles.
I’m deeply touched by this response. I really didn’t expect it. I’d say I feel relieved but I don’t suppose anything was ever actually at stake; my level of success/notoriety is such that I’m never hated for anything I put out – not because my songs are faultless, rather because they have no cultural currency. But of course there is always something at stake. Because this collection is easily my most personal: the fear and fury running through the material is very much my own, not some fictional projection. The narrator is the same one found in Bedlam Six records though his voice is far more resigned in this outing, more settled. Maybe that’s where the real horror seeps in. From the resignation. Isn’t that the everyday horror that visits us all eventually? That settling and the subsequent acceptance of the settling. That defeat. I feel like over the years this narrator’s trajectory has been on a collision course with my own – starting out as a rather cartoonish villain and gradually gaining substance as I’ve settled into my own skin and let him settle into his. Gentle Songs Of Ceaseless Horror is where the two meet – where the writer touches his own reflection staring out of the mirror, opposite but identical.
Every singer-songwriter at some point refers to one of their albums as “deeply personal” – in my time at Debt Records I’ve read so many press releases that have opened with that sentiment. I was prepared for this solo project to inspire a fair bit of eye-rolling (if it was lucky enough to inspire anything at all). I got into the rock and roll game because I believe it’s better to dance away problems than huddle up quietly with one’s injured peers. And now here I am with one of those quite introspective offerings where the majority of the knives are pointed inwards. But of course there are so many ways to cope (or not cope) with being human – why not try them all?
So thank you to everyone who has bought this record. And also to anyone who dipped a toe in and ultimately decided against it, your bravery is to be commended. I didn’t realise how clogged up I was with all that stuff until I finally made an album out of it. Now I can embark on the next project with a spring in my step and a dagger in my boot.
You’re the best audience a fidgety narcissist could ever ask for.
Gentle Songs Of Ceaseless Horror is available as a CD and download here.
Music Videos pertaining to the release are as follows:
You Did This To Me (directed by Paul Wright)
Faith In Myths (directed by Paul Wright)
The Stuff Of Archive (directed by Bryony Anderson)
Before It’s Too Late (lyric video)
Musical Box (archive footage lyric video)
Scarecrow (archive footage lyric video)
Splendid album. Yes, Tell-Tale Hound is a splendid track – but this is a splendid album! It was a pleasure seeing you perform it for the launch, and I hope the rest of your audiences were more appreciative than those in Oxford!
Tis beautiful. Nice to enjoy some tears and mellowness as a contrast to the get up and dance madness of the bedlams. And the live performances of the ceaseless songs were amazing. Even when I was drunk ;)
Richard O'connor says
I love the Hound, and similar, but Ceaseless Horror hangs brilliantly together as an album to be listened to in the right order, rather than “a collection of songs”. You can hear and feel the personal nature of it. I’d miss the Hound-sound if you swore off it completely, but you do both brilliantly.
I won’t abandon the hound, I owe it my entire career. I still prefer being silly onstage than being serious (you can be serious anywhere so why waste the opportunity to be silly!) but it’s nice that people like the pretty stuff too, I’d hate to think I was being humoured!
Ahhhhh….. if you really knew your treasure!! But I don’t suppose we are allowed to see our own brilliance, it might spoil any creativity that the angst is the engine of :) ?
Andrew Forcer says
As a continuously awkward sod I have always preferred the more sensitive side of all your output. To get an entire album of it was perfect. I salute you and your craft, bravo sir, bravo!
I readily agree Andrew. I listen to Gentle Songs going to work and I listen to it coming home from work and I try to persuade any one else nearby to listen too. “You have just got got listen to this guy sing, I implore, the man’s a genius!” And so he is. I love the shanty, the laments, the anger, the story telling which is embraced so touchingly in this work.