The Bluetones

TrackAlbum / Single
Talking To ClarryExpecting To Fly
Time & AgainExpecting To Fly
If...Return To The Last Chance Saloon
Emily's PineScience & Nature
Never Going NowhereLuxembourg
Serenity NowSerenity Now EP
Nae Hair On'tSlight Return (reissue) B-Side
Castle RockCut Some Rug B-Side
SurrenderedThe Bluetones
FireflyA New Athens

The Bluetones photo 1

The Bluetones 1996 (l to r): Mark Morriss, Eds Chester,
Scott Morriss, Adam Devlin

 

spotify-logo-primary-horizontal-dark-background-rgb-sm
Bluetones playlist

 

 

Contributor: Nicola Tyzack

I recently ran a feature on my Sounds Familiar Twitter account where I asked people to vote via online polls on their favourite Bluetones songs. The results were used to come up with an ultimate setlist of around 18 tracks. It was probably one of the hardest features I’ve ever run and it caused a lot of conversation and quite a bit of debate. So, writing this article was never going to be easy either. And I can guarantee that my choices will be discussed until the cows come home as Bluetones fans are nothing if not passionate about the music. Which is a really lovely thing.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I love certain bands and I make no apologies for being a fan. I will discuss them, I support them and I will defend them, if necessary, pretty much all the time. My profile picture is me standing with Mark Morriss so I don’t hide the fact that I love the Bluetones. And I mean love them. They have been a massive part of my life for over 20 years and I feel very lucky to have actually met them and that they put up with my regular online pestering.

I have written many articles on the Bluetones before for my own website, including a twentieth anniversary piece on their debut album Expecting To Fly, but selecting just 10 songs is a challenge in itself. Their catalogue is vast, the B-sides and rarities are loved just as much as the album tracks and my own favourites change depending on the mood I’m in. Or what day it is. Or which way the wind is blowing. This band have never made my life easy, but I am going to give it a go and try to select 10 tracks that showcase the reason why this group of lads still get those conversations going and why their music causes as much debate amongst the fans as it does.

This list is in no way definitive as I have very carefully not chosen the main songs that people might possibly be familiar with. I wanted to pick tracks that I liked personally and felt gave something of a picture to the style and sound of the band. As much as I have listed them in chronological order for ease, you can play them in any order you wish. My thought process around this might not have worked, but if nothing else maybe it has just given you a playlist of great songs. And I’ll settle for that.

A bit of background for those of you who have no idea who this band are. The Bluetones are a 4 piece popular music combo from West London and consist of Mark Morriss (vocals/guitar), Adam Devlin (guitar), Eds Chesters (drums) and Scott Morriss (bass). They have released 6 studio albums, 6 compilation albums, a couple of live albums and had 13 top 40 singles in the UK charts. And they are also really, really nice guys. And no, I was not paid to make that comment.

Their debut album Expecting To Fly landed in 1996. It featured the song that would define the Bluetones in the same way that Weather With You defines Crowded House – Slight Return. A catchy number full of guitar which had been released the previous year and would bring a group of four blokes from Hounslow to the attention of the British public, and of course to me. I have deliberately not included Slight Return in this list for no other reason than the band are much more than just that one song. Expecting To Fly would knock What’s The Story Morning Glory by Oasis off the number one spot for one week and as we were in the era of Britpop, this band would become cemented into the history of nineties music as part of that scene. Whether they considered themselves to be ‘that’ or not.

Anyway. I loved them and this album is one of my all-time favourites. I still play it from start to finish now and never tire of it. It’s an album that is “all killer, no filler”, it doesn’t put a foot wrong in my opinion and contains some of the most wonderful songwriting and musicianship I’ve ever heard, especially on a debut album created by youngsters. It was incredibly hard to pick just one or two tracks from this album as I adore it so much, but I finally managed to narrow it down.

First up I picked the opening track Talking To Clarry, mainly because I think it’s great to experience that starting number with the sound of the airplane over Heathrow and the journey that the next six+ minutes takes you through to introduce you to this band. I love the lyrics, I love Adam’s guitar, I love the direction it takes you in, especially the build to the “communication is blurred” part at the five-minute mark. What an opener. In the same vein, I also picked Time & Again because it’s simply an amazing track (the can of drink opening at the start makes me smile every time), the way the song moves through, the “ba-ba-ba-ba” that you can sing along to, it all just totally finishes the album off spectacularly. Sublime.

 

When the track If… didn’t make it onto my setlist feature I thought the world had ended. The fans were not happy, but we did include it on the encore and peace was restored. Phew. This song proves an important point about the popularity of the band and their music though. It is usually the final song of a live set and people simply love it. They love dancing to it, they love singing it. I once said “It has the best nah nah nahs since Hey Jude” and I stand by that. It does. As soon as you hear Scott’s opening bassline you know what’s coming and it’s just a joy to listen to. It features on the album Return To The Last Chance Saloon which also includes some other cracking tracks, but really, it had to be this one for this list.

The 3rd studio album Science & Nature from 2000 was my favourite for a long time so this was another difficult choice to just pick a couple of tracks from it. I was going to go with either Tiger Lily or One Speed Gearbox as they are both what I would call a beautiful sigh in the form of a song, but instead I went for Emily’s Pine. I actually didn’t take much notice of this song for many years, but it has definitely grown on me recently and I now appreciate it a bit more. Plus, a song with a dark undertone of killing the one you love isn’t on your everyday pop playlist now is it? It’s a good example of how exceptional the song writing is which Mark Morriss happens to have in abundance.

By the time we make it to studio album 4 in 2003, I have to admit I checked out for a little while. Not sure why, I was probably focused on something else at the time, but I didn’t delve into Luxembourg heavily at the time. It also got mixed reviews in the music press as well. When I revisited it later on, I discovered a few tracks that I wasn’t too fussed about, one that made me laugh out loud and a little beauty somewhere in the middle called Never Going Nowhere which spoke of sour relationships whilst making me tap my feet. The album showed that the band had grown in both musical influences and also had expanded their subject matter in several of the songs, and I’ve found this is an album that you need to spend time with to let it get under your skin. For me, it did take a while, and there are still some tracks that I skip over (just being honest), but I guess that’s something to be expected with some albums.

 

The track Serenity Now comes from an EP released in 2005 when the band changed labels. The song title comes from a Seinfeld episode called ‘The Serenity Now’ and after hunting down this limited EP I fell in love with this track. It’s loud, it’s catchy and the lyrics are great, especially the part that goes “everybody you meet wants to knock your teeth out”. Another fabulous in-between studio albums piece of work that I don’t think gets heard enough so I had to include it (see top clip).

As I mentioned at the beginning, the band have a massive back catalogue of songs, which includes on top of the singles, various B-sides and other rarities that are played live. So much so that a boxed set was released in 2006 in two variations. The 2-disc version is the singles and the B-sides whilst a limited edition 3-disc box also includes another disc of even more B-sides which totals 60 songs. Now, I have always been particularly fond of one of the B-side tracks from the reissue of Slight Return which came out in 1996. The song is called Nae Hair On’t and it’s beautiful. I liked it from the first time I heard it and I still include it in playlists now. It’s a simple song, very acoustic in feel and it fits Mark’s voice perfectly.

 

Another B-side I have chosen is Castle Rock which can be heard on the single Cut Some Rug. I had a bit of trouble deciding on which other track to go for and it was between this and The Simple Things, but I think the guitar and the overall sound of this track had it for me. I don’t think it gets much of an airing in a live show, but it’s a belter. Plus, I live in Nottingham now and it’s a nod to the local brewery so why not!

The self-titled The Bluetones studio album appeared in late 2006 and, for me, it shows a maturity in the band and in the songwriting. The album cover and some of the singles also feature a lot of the brilliant artwork by bass player and animator Scott with my favourite being the cover of the Head On A Spike single. The song I have chosen from The Bluetones is the opening track Surrendered. I’m not ashamed to say this song has brought a tear to my eye on occasion and I find it very emotive so it had to be included.

And finally, we get to studio album number six and the very last album the Bluetones would record. It came out in 2010 and is called A New Athens. It went under the radar, didn’t hit the UK charts and I believe that it’s actually quite difficult to get hold of nowadays. Which is a great shame as it’s actually a very good album. I’ve heard Mark refer to it as his favourite and I think it contains some very well-crafted songs that deserve more of an audience. I wrote a review of it on the Record Rewind Play website which you can read here.

 

The song I have picked to end on is from that last album and is called Firefly. It’s my favourite on the album and I love the lyrics, the sound and pretty much everything about it. By the time we get to this album the lads had totally honed their style and work like a well-oiled machine. I think there is a more laid-back ease to this final body of work which I guess you can only really achieve if you are confident with your work and as a group. It’s a pity this was to be the end of their creative genius as they split up the following year and no new work as a 4 piece has been forthcoming. Mark continues as a solo artist to great success and the band are still together and playing on a regular basis to their loyal fan club on yearly tours and also as part of various Britpop style events.

Which is great news for fans like me as it allows me to still see and hear the songs that I love so much being played live. Plus, it also means that I can recommend the gigs to other folks as I can honestly say that you won’t be disappointed by a Bluetones gig. With an amazing back catalogue and a dedication to the music and the fans, these boys remain my long-time love. And I don’t see that changing any time soon. Enjoy this brief dip into their music and I hope you will then take the time to discover even more of their amazing songs. You won’t regret it.

 

 

The Bluetones photo 2

The Bluetones 2019 (l to r): Scott Morriss, Mark Morriss,
Adam Devlin, Eds Chesters

 

 

The Bluetones poster
(from the author’s collection)

 

 

 

The Bluetones official website

Bluetones fansite (archived)

The Bluetones discography

Mark Morriss official website

Scott Morriss official website

The Bluetones at Discogs

The Bluetones biography (AllMusic)

After writing for other sites for a while, Nicola decided to give it a go on her own and now runs Sounds Familiar sharing articles, interviews and reviews on the music she loves. You can follow Nicola on twitter @call_me_cynical and @soundsfamiliarb

TopperPost #879

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

↓