The Year 2003

Here you find what Turin Brakes were up to from the beginning until roughly the end of 2003.


Releases:

Pain Killer Ether Song Average Man
5 Mile Ether Song

We don’t need Painkillers

Having spent the end of 2002 supporting David Gray on his Arena tour of the UK, Turin Brakes began the year with an album clutched under their arms ready to be unleashed to the public at large. If Long Distance was the track which would be the bridge between the two albums then Pain Killer was the something different. A tune so pop and summery, and lyrics so cheekily smut that when you heard it for the first time you assumed all innocence of it. The song is of course a reference to a sexual act.

Pain Killer was available for only one week only when it was released on 17th February and would instantly become the bands most successful single. It reached number 5 in the UK chart selling over 10,000 copies – unthinkable heights being scaled, but Olly & Gale certainly deserved their moment. Pain Killer was a gorgeous melody and fully deserved the new legion of fans it would generate.

Just before the release of the single Turin Brakes began what would be their biggest headline tour to date, covering 24 UK venues in the space of a single month! These shows would see the band moving towards the ‘bigger live sound’ that Olly & Gale had visions of. This was now proper Turin Brakes ‘the band’ with an array of musicians for their live shows with keyboardists, drummers and bass player.

Olly & Gale had certainly moved on since the days turning up at gigs as a support act with nothing more than two guitars. They were now the main focus, the headline act with a collection of tunes ready to blow your mind away. That was the vision for the band for both men and this was the start of what would almost feel like a halcyon era, atleast since the memorable v2001 festival.

The Pain Killer single also featured a demo recording for Little Brother (on the 7″ vinyl only) whilst the cd single had just the one b-side in the form of ‘Where’s My Army’. This was yet another Olly & Gale home recording and perhaps one of their most under rated tracks. Olly’s voice here sounding very very dry and bitter, which seems to work brilliantly with the lyrics and its a shame they didn’t think to make a proper recording of this.

The Difficult Second Album

After the success of the debut album Turin Brakes faced that awkward dilemma called the second album syndrome. Olly & Gale decided they needed to develop their sound and create something different. The Optimist LP was one of the mini success stories of 2001, with the band gaining recognition from all quarters of the media for making simple guitar music cool again. However, Turin Brakes had gained the unwanted tag of being described as ‘precious’ – cheerful chappies making simple music, with little ability to cause so much of a riot or make too much noise. Olly & Gale decided it was time to show people an entirely different side of the band and make them sit up and take them seriously.

Ether Song was recorded in the summer of 2002 in Los Angeles and it would be an album that brought about a new experience. Tony Hoffer was brought in to do the production work for the boys and his involvement would be something they’ve never had. Hoffer would choose the songs to make it onto the album aswell as doing the recording and remixing. All Olly & Gale would have to concentrate on is playing the music and getting that right. When recording and producing for The Optimist LP they did everything themselves, but this time by having a producer to do this they had less pressure and they could get their sound and songs just right. Also, Hoffer had ideas that Turin Brakes didn’t necessarily agree with, which was good because before they would have decided everything between them, and often not known if they were doing the right thing, but would go along with it anyway. Gale: “During the recording of the first album we had really precise demos brought from home and we would just experiment along. With Ether Song we just had rough ideas and we played with pretty much a live band and that involved just basically rehearsing the tracks for 2 or 3 days and then record it, taking the best out of 2 or 3 takes. We got it done in 2 1/2 weeks, it’s very liberating, just play the track and it was done. If there was anything we weren’t sure about we could just turn around and ask him: ‘Will the record company accept this?’, which we couldn’t do with the first album, we just sort of looked at eachother “Hmm, I don’t know, we’ll just see what happens. So, it was entirely different…”
This time Hoffer was calling the shots and he would ultimately have the final say on everything to do with recording the album.

The album’s theme is based around what is known as the Ether. An invisible thing situated betweent the Earth’s atmpsohere and the stratosphere. Kind of above the clouds almost if you can imagine, that’s where the Ether lies, its a kind of unknown and magical thing. Olly & Gale spent a lot of time deciding on a theme, it only seemed natural. People who heard the first album, which was pretty much self explanatory yet deep in thought, would expect the same kind of meaning. So the Ether theme was decided after much deliberation and drinking. The idea was put to Tony Hoffer upon starting the recording process and he approved of it and decided which tracks out of Olly & Gale’s demo’s should have the ‘ether stamp’.

An Average Song

Average Man was the third single to be lifted from the Ether song sheet, and the record labels decision to release it as an a-side left many of the bands fanbase a little disgruntled. Don’t get me wrong, Average Man is a lovely little snippet of pop, but in terms of its place on the album it was more of a light relief track than one which had ‘single’ plastered all over it. When a band releases singles off an album they are primarliy supposed to be reflective of the mood of the album, something which Average Man is not. If anything it is probably the one song which fits more awkwardly on the album than anything else, if Olly & Gale will have us believe the whole idea of Ether Song is to explore what lies above the clouds. The album is certianly an adventure of new sounds and songs which fit their ideaology, but average man was never anything more than a little jaunt. So with this release a feeling of the label overpowering the band began to set in and it’s quite possible they wanted another ‘Pain Killer’ release, but any follow up was never going to scale those heights ever again. A better single would probably have come out of Self Help or Little Brother, but the decision was made and Average Man stalled at number 35 in the UK charts as a result.

The single was released with a range of different formats – and for the first time Turin Brakes released a DVD single which featured an excellent b-side in So Long. A tune with Gale on lead vocal, and a track which many believe surpassed the a-side and quite possibly should have appeared on Ether Song in place of one of the weaker tracks such as Clear Blue Air. Still, it was a hidden treasure of a song, one which had a beautiful summer vibe, no cheesy chorus here and sounded really cool, particularly with Gale’s vocal. Also on the DVD was a Tony Hoffer remix of Average Man, which is quite defintely the worst excuse I have ever heard for a b-side, smacking of desperation to fill the contents of the release. Also present was some footage from the JD set in edinburgh where a select few were treated to beers and table football with the boys after the show and some behind the scenes filming was put on the DVD. The b-sides which appeared on the standard CD single were quite interesting. ‘Where I’ve Been’ was an XFM recording and is very sweet and laid back, whilst also featured was a live version of ‘Pain Killer’ recorded on Today FM.

5 Miles Too Far

Between the releases of Average Man and 5 Mile, Turin Brakes would experience quite possibly their most harrowing time on the road. Ensuing three tours of the US – firstly a 5 date headline tour in June, followed by supporting David Gray on 11 dates in July, and finally a 10 date autumn tour which the band funded out of their own pockets. In amongst all this was a further 15 festival appearances including Glastonbury, V2003, T in the Park, Witnness aswell as numerous European performances. Ontop of all this Turin Brakes were told by the record label that Ether Song had come to the end of its shelf life after just a few short months of being released. During their June tour of the states they were put back in the studio with Tony Hoffer to record an unfinished song called “5 Mile”. As far as the record company were concerned Ether Song hadn’t met their expectations and therefor wanted 5 Mile released as soon as possible as well as reissuing Ether Song for a third time. Ether Song was reissued for the second time the week after Average Man with a newly packaged cardboard digipak and bonus tracks.

5 Mile was released on 29th September just before Olly & Gale’s third return to the states and entered the UK chart at a lowly 31. Quite simply the track was given very little airplay – overlooked by radio 1 and sparsely played on most radio stations. The record label clearly had high hopes of another commercially successful release with 5 Mile, with its cheery chorus and overglossed melody, but it seems with this song Turin Brakes were beginning to move away from the roots of their sound. This wasn’t essence of Turin Brakes, this was Olly & Gale having to cave into record company demands and pressure of producing a commercially viable product to make a quick return. The result being a song which barely resembled what the band was about. A rushed effort and one given too much sheen, 5 Mile is not a fans’ favourite by any stretch.

The b-sides featured were all live recordings – the pick of the bunch being The Door and Stone Thrown. In general though the whole idea of this release smacked of desperation to recoup and gain from an album which had already done its course. To coincide with the release, Ether Song was repackaged for a third time (but not the last) and issued the week after 5 Mile was put on sale. Packaged with a new slip case which featured an orange sunset instead of the Ether blue aswell as a new bonus disc with 6 new bonus tracks. The best of these being the live band version of Long Distance and the SBN acoustic performance for Falling Down. The latter sounding a little more up tempo than the album version, but without all the backwards fanfare which appeared on the Ether Song version, I rate this stripped to the bones rendition of Falling Down much more highly than the original. Quite why The Boss made it onto the bonus disc we will never know, but the label were clearly desperate to make some money out of a reissue. Put simply though, fans weren’t impressed by this and if Virgin thought releasing new artwork and random bonus tracks was going to appease and generate a new following then they were very much mistaken. The only good to come out of the whole thing was that if you had already bought Ether Song then you could download the extra tracks online. This kind gesture though did nothing to erase unrest from both fans and Olly & Gale themselves for seeing the band being used.

In November Ether Song was reissued for a fourth time (quite possibly a record for any band in a single year?). This time released as just a single CD, it was hideously thrown together with 5 Mile shoved at the end of the package along with The Boss (quite why this was decided we’ll never know). Ether Song was no longer a hidden track for this reissue and appears as track 13. Olly & Gale have since featured in many interviews clearly not happy with how they were being dictated and forced to do things they didn’t want to. They want to go back to doing things their own way and make their own decisions. May common sense prevail and Olly & Gale are allowed to do what they want to do and not what they’re told to do,like it was before.

Leave a Reply