Review: Paper Aeroplanes - The Day We Ran Into The Sea
They are as punk rock as a Carpenters tribute band populated by ukulele-playing kittens.
But who wants snot when you can have honey?
Well, courtesy of their debut album The Day We Ran Into the Sea, I got both.
I was driving into Wrexham on Sunday morning to interview Paper Aeroplanes' Sarah Howells. The album was on the CD player and had transformed the inside of the car into some strange grotto bejewelled with melodies that could break a stone's heart. I turned off onto the roundabout at Acton, cursed the rain on the windscreen and then realised that the massive raindrops obscuring my vision were streaming out of my eyes.
Something within the music, specifically the last song Orange Lights, had reached inside me like no other song has recently, and bled me.
I had to pull to the side of the road and dry my eyes. Despite surrounding myself by music, cocooning myself in it, I couldn't explain why this collection of sounds had managed to break through the veneer. Still can't.
Paper Aeroplanes' musical history stretches back as far as guitarist Richard Llewellyn's stint in west Wales indie poppers Cartoon. They released a couple of well-crafted singles at the tale end of the last millennium, toured with Space, and then split up. Sarah's first musical steps were taken with Milford Haven's Jylt, another fine band who appeared to be on the cusp of national recognition when Sarah's best friend and bandmate, Nia George, was diagnosed with leukemia.
Nia died in 2004 aged 21.
I can't imagine how such a devastating experience must have affected Sarah. I do know that when she eventually resurfaced in Halflight the songs were more contemplative and ached with a new depth and truth.
Paper Aeroplanes is the sound of someone emerging from the other side of that experience: wise, determined, defiant, but with an implacable sadness in the corner of her eyes. It makes for the most beautiful, happysad music.
Now, my musical vocabulary is atypical. I know that. None of my favourite bands get stacked on the supermarket shelves. Put Klaus Kinski's recent debut single anywhere near a retail outlet frequented by normal, X Factor-watching folk and sales would plummet. That, of course, is why I love them and their mutant ilk. But it's an acquired taste; I understand that.
This restrictive lexicon means that I don't best know how to describe Paper Aeroplanes' debut album The Day We Ran Into The Sea. But I'll give it a go: Cliché chimes like The La's There She Goes; Freewheel has a bit of Lone Justice and Tom Petty in its family tree; the more introspective songs (Pick Me, Lost) have the same emotional tug as 10,000 Maniacs' most naked work; Dancing Every Night is pure pop nouse; Give It Back a dancefloor-filling cousin of The Cardigans' For What It's Worth, and Take It Easy and Orange Lights just plain raise the bar for emotive pop music.
And it is 'pop' music: brilliantly crafted and stoked from a bruised heart's embers. Truly, you could streak the sky with this album's melodies and people would stand, necks craned, mouths agape, gasping at the beauty of it all. There is a song here for every mood, for every magazine, for every radio station. It has an effortless, uncontrived universality. But I worry that these melodies won't get streaked across the radio it deserves because the radio it deserves is cluttered with dinosaurs and dilettantes. And because, all too frequently, the radio it deserves is waiting for someone else to tell them how good it is.
So, if you're reading this, big chieftans of the focus group-defined playlist, this is VERY, VERY GOOD INDEED, the finest radio album to come out of Wales since Rockferry. Please let's not wait for those over the border to tell us so.
'the day we ran into the sea' is available now via http://myspace.com/paperaeroplanes