Railway Architecture Song By Song

silvery_railway_architecture2010’s second album. I was going to do this as a little audio documentary, including demos and live recordings playing in the background, but lets face it – I’d never have gotten around to it. At least this saves me doing one of those terrible acoustic gigs with 20 minutes of waffle between each song. No one wants that. The Kev mentioned is of course Kev Feazey, former 5th Silvery, now promoted to 2nd Silvery. See also the ‘Thunderer & Excelsior’ song by song HERE and the one for Etiquette’ HERE. EDIT: I had a listen to this the other day and it’s not half bad I tell you. Might give it another spin tonight too.

A Deconstruction Of Roles: From the same batch of tunes written summer 2003 that made up most of both albums – in fact the only reason this one didn’t get on the first album was because it shared so many similar elements with ‘Star Of The Sea’. That said, during the recording of this (which was more of an experiment to try an recreate the original 4-track demo – something I’d never done before) it became a superior tune, developing a classic SKA feel. A mechanical Can Can I hope. Hence the first Silvery tune to have brass on, and a fluke of bad keyboard playing got it even jauntier. With two thirds of the album yet to do, this was slated as the album opener straight away. Having the sound of a diesel locomotive starting up was a statement of intent, contradicting the UFO landing noises opening the debut album. I think the second Silvery song to actually have a proper guitar solo. Rules are there to be broken, man. You’ll still hear this on in Topshop occasionally.

Identity: Like ‘Murder Holes’, this came into its own when it was recorded as part of ‘The Nishikado EP’ in 2009, and instantly became a favourite – much better than the live version we’d been doing every now and again for years. The only misgiving was that it was missing the ‘Railway Architecture’ intro I gave it during the albums sessions. Briefly retitled ‘The Terence Stamp’. The sort of name that screams ‘interesting song’. But then hastily reverted to the original dull name to satisfy everyone as at some point we’d have to play it to our dads. The third track done for the EP, ‘The Public Purse’ was given a superior remix and finished for the album but didn’t make the cut sadly. Will need to revisit that one at somepoint. Indeed, when the second album was still being considered a stop gap release featuring all the previous non album material, even ‘Devil In The Detail’ B-Side ‘The Squadron Leader’ was given a ‘Railway Architecture’ remix. That one wasn’t so good though. Done live in a BBC session and included on an Artrocker compilation CD, curiously becoming one of the widest travelled Silvery songs.

Two Halves Of The Same Boy: Much like the similar vintage ‘Deconstruction Of Roles’, this was an exercise in recreating the original demo – same no frills drums, same glam rock guitar bits. Lovely. However, as the 2010 BBC recording shows, it really didn’t work live which is why we never recorded it earlier. So, naturally, the album version became playlisted by the BBC for 5 weeks and the amount of Last.FM plays tells it’s own tale. A great little tune, but FFS. Lyrically, exploring the Lucifer Sam ‘he’s the left side’ sort of thing, it could possibly be added to the list of Silvery songs that celebrate Silvery – in this case a more melodic ‘Murder Holes’. Silvery – the band that celebrates itself.

The Naked & The Dead: To be bracketed along with ‘Devil In The Detail’ as a veteran of Silvery 2002. Mothballed for about 6 years and recorded roughly during the first album session which is where most of this recording comes from. Add a disco chorus for a bit of variation, and BANG – a good song, but absolutely terrible choice for first single off the album. Hence a passable BBC session version exists, preserving the 2010 line up of the band. In fact it was only because it had a video made for it that that it was a single. The one single I regret. The video by the same team behind the ‘Horrors‘ clip was OK, but ruined by me being in it. Named after a line from Jacques Brel’s ‘Next’ rather than the Norman Mailer book.

Will Self (or, ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’): Another song that might have made the first album, but left over for the second. And again, recorded roughly during those sessions, but dusted down and finished off a couple of years later. Testament to Kev’s motto ‘I don’t delete anything’. Puzzled and hurt somewhat that no one wanted to finish their parts, the decision was taken to do it properly with woodwind and brass. That was a session and a half I tell you. Doesn’t quite hit the heights it should, but a good attempt. Like a 40 yarder hitting the crossbar. Not about Will Self the chap (bit of a stupid name then?) but the development of machinery and a man who spends his whole time invented stuff as a young man and by the time he’s an old man he is spending his whole time preserving those same pieces of machinery he made as a young man. Or something like that. The demo was described in 2005 as ‘The sort of thing Pulp should be doing now..’ by one respected rag.

The Quaire Fellow: This was given it’s own blog entry here. An excusion into power pop that became something else entirely. The middle 8 is easily the best thing on the album, with some great fluting. Almost ‘War Of The Worlds’ shit.

The Nod: As Adam said in a previous blog, when this came about it was considered the dawn of the new Silvery. Flight of melody and camp of everything else. The same message as ‘Orders’ (which, curiously, followed it on the 2003 demo reel) – a wake up call for lazybones everywhere, make something of yourself blah blah blah. And yes, I did realise almost straight away that it was my own subconscious telling me that. The development of the song can be traced back to various older demos – namely ‘Adventure Band’ and ‘Footsoldier’. A great little song which we didn’t even consider for the first album, but decided to record it as a fresh B side for the ‘Action Force’ single (up there with ‘Horrors’ / ‘Orders’ as the best vinyl coupling Silvery ever did) the results were considered so good we made it the double A side as a preview for the second album which would’ve come out a few months later if it all went to plan. Which it didn’t. Still, ended up on the second album (with a couple of tweaks) despite its age by virtue of the best bit of Radio play the band got – Radio 2’s Mark Lamar playing it to Sparks (yes, the actual Sparks) and them being dumbfounded. Skillz.

Sparks & Fire: Another ancient tune, famous enough to give its name to our first website. Recorded along with ‘Ropes & Sails’ as B-sides from the album sessions, I liked the results enough to keep them on the album. The drums were made to sound as artificial as possible to match the toy like feeling we’d gone for on other tracks. There is a brief bit of a Thomas Hardy poem in the middle bit, and the song was reborn as a prayer to navvies and tunnel diggers rather than an exploration into the Hollow Earth as it was first written. Believe it or not, it used to lead (via ‘Ropes & Sails’) into ‘In Insects’ as a live medley musical back in the day. More about that later. The second verse was replaced by an instrumental passage very early on when I realised at one gig that it was utter shite and did a wonky guitar solo instead. That later developed into a brief passage to allow the band a chance to body pop. Badly.

Ropes & Sails: Slightly older than ‘Sparks & Fire’, I prefer this part of the medley much more. The first Silvery instrumental (if you ignore the singing fragments) which I remember actually demoing the afternoon of the 9/11 attacks. That was fucking ages ago. I guess testament to the quality of material that came later. Very early on the two songs became ‘segued’ live and stayed like that on the album. David makes a cameo playing his bass lines on both on the album cuts.

An Account Of The Raising Of A Spirit: Played live a surprisingly large amount of times during 2011. Not much more I can say about this. We had to stop adding things to the studio version as it was getting too stupid. I mean, we’re not a joke band. Oh. One of my favourite memories of doing this one is Kev asking ‘What do you mean, TAP DANCERS??’. Lord knows what I’d suggested. Former Silvery David adds a super Uke part (we couldn’t find an accordion) as he did to the album version of the Bugsy Malone cover. I think another song that was the result of a BBC London Robert Elms phone in. For some reason, the album version is missing a piano line. You’ll have to wait for the 10th Anniversary reissue for that one.

The ‘In Insects’ Jerk: Anyway – this was another mothballed tune from 2002 ish and was the part in the Silvery Hollow Earth musical when the explorers (Victorian, or course) come across a race of industrious insects. In fact the explorers might have been Pirates. I can’t remember. Like ‘Sparks & Fire’ it was quite easy to rewrite to fit the ‘Railway Architecture’ concept – something about the simplest things (insects) being like the most complicated things (machines). Something like that. Hence sonically the nadir of the Silvery mechanical clockwork thing. A hoedown that became a jerk. I like this one live, a much more satisfying 2 minutes that speeds up to ridiculous levels at the end. Again, another ‘Railway Architecture’ tune to have been debuted in a live BBC session.

The Murder Holes Are About You: On the album by virtue of the excellent oompah chorus. The Murder Hole became a dance craze if you were in Silvery in 2005. A murder hole is actually part of a castles defence through which nasty things are dropped on the invading hoardes. Quite an angry song, somewhat watered down by the Medieval imagery. Always worked better slower -as it was designed- to let those oompah bits to really kick in, but of course also a lot of fun to rip through. A decent enough recording, but like the next song, good reason for it to be hidden at the end of the album.

You Give A Little Love: I looooved doing this live, but never listen to this version. Recorded the same weekend as ‘The Nod’, Kev had his work cut out for him with our assembled pals adding backing singing. The album version is different to the single mix, but it’s the latter that always gets played on the radio (still!) Should’ve done ‘Seasick’ as the climax to the album instead but just ran out of time and patience. Obviously, having a million selling Christmas Number One on the album made commercial sense. Rolls eyes. ‘Seasick’ will have to wait until album 3.

Hook Woods: A toss up between this and a tune called ‘The Round Tail’ to finish the album. This won out primarily because it was the total opposite of the last song on the first album. A sad reflection rather than an apocalyptic Wagner-eque onslaught. Originally it had a little music box at the start – one of several things cut from the finished album which really really irked me. Still does. I’d like to have redone the original rough vocal to this, but we deemed it good enough to keep – I don’t like that breathy sound. In keeping with Michael Stipe’s decision not to explain song meanings, this is not for all the ladeez out there, but infact about my old dog who loved those woods.

So, In all, a bittersweet album for me. Better than the sum of its parts, but I’ll always see it as an album that should be so much better than it is – not material-wise, not performance-wise, just as a whole. The more I think about it, the sadder it makes me when I recall being left so totally high and dry.

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