Saturday, 26 May 2012

Mid Air: The Hissyfit Review: World Weary Plain Song or Just Plain Knackered?

"Every record should be compared to silence - silence is perfect.
What are you going to put on it?"  
Paul Buchanan

It's interesting how the Blue Nile and Paul Buchanan particularly have helped map the emotional landscapes of many; not only enriching but endorsing the human condition. Surely this is the ambition of any artist: to connect. It seems that Buchanan's voice and canny observations have us all rendered dumb, then babbling; he says what we wanted to say; he articulates the minutiae, the commonplace, helping us to reclaim lost moments; the silences; the space between the disappointments and the small victories. That is his gift; he speaks for All of Us without preaching... with the faltering delivery of a wounded man he notes and totes the daily defeats; the bruises, the scars, the damage done; his keen eye focussed on the fault lines of the male psyche. And yet with PB there is always the promise of recovery. Perhaps this is why he elicits such adulation and devotion from us maudlin middle agers. And while he speaks for all of us, there is an intimacy in the delivery that gives the impression that he is speaking directly to us; the effect can be emotionally overwhelming. 
There's always empathy and tenderness; "Ask me if I am grateful , watch as I fall down to my knees"
The album is chock full of such blessed moments, too earthly to be called heavenly. It's also informed by a pretty potent quotient of loss. I won't detail the songs here; their discovery is surely a personal pleasure and, if you've not yet heard the album, I envy you your first encounter. There's no fat here, no distractions in the austere presentation; the prodding piano, that beautifully imperfect voice stage centre; everything lean and focussed. You can't help but... lean in. There's much pondering, Buchanan has you rubbing your chin, nodding sagely at the worldly recognitions; and then he'll hit you with 'for the starlight in my suitcase' and you find yourself elevated and... in pieces. 
Are we ever too old for epiphanies? 
Ever too old to wish upon stars?
It's said that the boy is the father of the man; what is unique about this exceptional writer is the way he articulates what it is to be a man in testing times; yet always with a sense of wide eyed wonder; there's clarity and wisdom in his almost willful innocence. He sees, he recognises, he sheds light, illuminating a path forwards, onwards and beyond the defeats, towards some kind of refuge...  that guiding light might be insubstantial starlight; a half light; but it is light enough...


  1. One of the small things I like about the lp are the lyrical echoes of the blue nile - certain words pull you back to other songs - starlight being one of them

  2. Agreed, I think that he mindfully limits his lexicon; making his vocabulary of loss and redemption very specific and personal.
    Clever; part of the 'willful innocence' thing...

  3. "Willful Innocence"... that's a new one to me. But explains a lot. I've always thought he 'sold' some of the seemingly simple lyrics with pure sincerity, but then he'd yank out: "Starlight do you know me? Please, don't look at me now. I'm falling apart" and you know this is one smart dude...

    1. For me, that's what's potent about his writing TT; he details the concerns of man; seen and recognised by a worldly man; then a revelation will be qualified with a small 'child's eye' detail'; a red car in the fountain, christmas tree lights; starlight in a suitcase. Is he dreaming; pining for the safe harbour of childhood, or using signifiers that help him to decipher to confusions of the adult world. I suspect that Buchanan has a 'Rosebud' or two in his attic... don't we all?
      Mine's a Blue Tractor.
      What's yours?

  4. - Mickey Mouse "ears"
    - Eskimo Pies
    - Dad's tree hammock
    - Mom singing "Amazing Grace"
    - Pop-Tarts!