Songs that woozily sway between all-out romance and magpie-eyed reality.
Fraser McAlpine 2011-03-15
When considering this man's work, and his unrivalled ear for making words fall over themselves into a giddy heap, it’s too easy to just quote the lyrics and sit back, knowing a thing has been stated gloriously, and basking in the glow of a job well done. After all, anyone who can sell a line like "If you’re gonna try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes" is someone who needs no puffing up.
What you don’t tend to hear so much about is his voice: that disdainful purr – part disappointed sneer and part tender encouragement. Whether picking holes in scenesters or detailing a perfect day, it’s a most effective vehicle for delivering a story or two.
These songs comprise the soundtrack to a film called Submarine, directed by Richard Ayoade; it’s a dark comedy, about a 15-year-old boy wanting to lose his virginity and keep his parents together, and Alex’s songs woozily sway between all-out romance and magpie-eyed reality in a manner which suggests he remembers the vertically steep learning curve of those years all too well.
Hiding Tonight, just a gently strummed guitar, some drones and twinkles and a wondrous, wistful lyric about a coconut shy, is effectively a fairground cousin to Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner, only this time the boy gets the girl. Glass in the Park is scarcely any more embellished, maybe a harmony or two, and just as swollen with that same first-love glow.
Meanwhile, It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind’s reproachful, flinty lyric is set to a folky fingerpick, and Stuck on the Puzzle carries itself like an early Lennon song, albeit one which replaces post-Beatles angst with a late-night head-scratch about the state of things. Which just leaves Piledriver Waltz, the most musically complex of the five proper songs here – two time signatures, no less – and the most reproachful.
And that’s it, apart from the brief snatch of ...Puzzle that opens proceedings: five swoony songs, sung beautifully, no duffers, and plenty of knotty lyrics to try and unravel. Another job well done.