"l‘he band most likely to' for far too long. The Blue Aeroplanes now look set to reap what they deserve. Guitarist Rodney Allen tells
’aul W. llullah how they gained their poetic licence.
Like their natne. 'l‘he Bltte Aeroplanes are a deliberately witty contradiction. 'l‘aking self—consciously ‘beat' poetns -- spoken by frontman (ierard Langley in a Dylanish nasal rasp — and setting them atop a rattling. rootsy guitarscape. they are the archetypal ‘cult' band: brimful of lyrical charm. they are easily mocked and frequently misunderstood. ‘lt‘s just rock‘n'roll.‘ they declare. but is it really'.’
'l‘hese seven boys sing songs abottt Jack Kerouac. (‘hampioned to the hilt by students and journalists. not least for their wildly energetic live shows. the Aeroplanes have never fully shaken off the ‘art-school‘ tag that's always stood barring them from the doors of mainstream commercial success. But maybe that's a good thing. ()h. and they had a certifiably mad on-stage dancer in the days when llawkwind. and not Happy Mondays. were the kind ofgroup who did things like that.
The Blue Aeroplanes formed in Bristol in 1983. Their first album. 1984's 80/) .-lr!. was ‘recorded in someone‘s bedroom on a four-track‘ and set bagpipes and a dulcitner alongside a scratch 1).] and three electric guitars. As the 8(ls progressed. so did the 'l’lanes: their bold employment of eyerything from feedback to gentle folk poetic dialogues. plus almost constant touring. won thetn many admirers all over Europe. But. after two further indie LPs — Tolerance and Spitting ()u! .llirucles on Fire records — which saw them honing their ragbag. kitchen-sink-and-all approach into a tightly harnessed beat-rock sound. the band suddenly split in late ‘88.
And then re-formed. With a new guitarist. (ilastonbury resident Rodney Allen. now drafted in to co-write songs with the often undisciplined Langley. the band immediately seemed to have become a serious proposition. 'l’hey were invited to tour with their heroes. REM. and struck up a ‘warm. easy rapport‘. not least on shared encores with Stipe and co. which still exists to this day. Gigs in Poland followed — they were one of the last bands to play there before the fall of the (‘ommunist government — and then a hugely successful US tour. resulting in their signing at last to a major label. Ensign Records. 1990’s .S'u-ugger album gained unanimously rave reviews and a single. titled ‘Jacket llangs’ described as ‘l’airport (‘onvention meets W. l l. Auden meets Bob Dylan'. even placed the ‘l’lanes on daytime Radio One. This week. a new album. Bt’lll.\'()l1f".\.
confirms thegroup's place asa wholly innovative. long-term prospect for the l)Hs. Still not much singing though. so how far have they really developed in eight _\'e;tt‘s'.’ \thl they lit)”th stlell ‘beat' luminaries as Benny Hill and lelly Sayalas to the top of the British charts on the strength of a spoken vocal'.’ ( ierard's locked out of his flat. apparently. so Rodney :\llett does the explaining.
‘\\'ell. don't beliey e what you read in the press.‘ he begins. cheerfully. ‘Belore I joined the Aeroplanes. haying just read about them. I always had them down as a real weird bunch olarty shitheads. ’l‘hen I saw them live and realised how good they were. lhet‘e's been Itt) pt'esstll'e [U alter our approach just because there‘s a major record label behind us now, lftherc wasany pressure on us. say for ( ierard to sing. then w e'd probably be less likely to consider doing it. it's like acupuncture. isn‘t it'.’ l’ressure. I mean. (ierard‘s got extremely good at w hat he does. He could sing if he wanted to. If w e're drunk and sat down with acoustic guitars. he‘ll sing a l.ott Reed song or a Beatles song. But he doesn’t sing in the band because he beliey es that the nature of his lyrics is poetical. if you like. It just sounds better. the way he deliy et'sit.‘
'l'his is a lair point. illustrated by a w hopping
re-reading of Paul Simon's "l‘he Boy In The Bubble'. featured on the new LP. ‘Yes. that song benefits. I think. frotn (ierard's way of bringing out the tnore sinister side of pop words. It's a great song anyway. but Paul Simon's is a jolly summer tune whereas ours brings out the dark. evil side to the lyric. Like when he discusses technology — it can be good because we can fax to each other over continents now. but the satne advances in knowledge help terrorists to blow up planes. 'l‘here‘s black and white in everything. Paul Simon doesn’t convey that for me. because he delivers it “l)um dc dum de dum de. . ‘
l lere. he breaks into an impromptu. two-minute rendition of the Archers signature tune. Weird guys. these Aeroplanes. and speaking to them is to be repeatedly reminded of the surreal quality of their music. with all its subtle nuances and dark corners.
You have to work at it with the Blue Acroplanes' forward-looking. experimental pop but. live and
on record. that‘s what makes them so
' 'l’lie [flue .-lcrop/(mesp/uy King 'I'ul's. (i/usgrm'on 'l'ues Jlluml Wei/.3]. Bruno/res is ut'ui/uh/eon
'l‘he List lo— 22 August NW 79