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[Etherish] We Were Here – The Ether Site Review

Disclaimer: this is not that much of a review, but it is definitely about ‘We Were Here’. 

July 2013, the last time I visited friends in London – something magical happened. I was catching up with this friend over some lovely tea talking Turin Brakes, as we always do when we are in the same location. We met on 30 September 2005 at the Turin Brakes gig in Amsterdam, and in this living room in London we were discussing our hopes and dreams for the Turin Brakes future. That in itself is something magical. I tire a lot of my friends, colleagues and family with Turin Brakes talk, but few of them manage to produce the same amount of talk in return. So to catch up with a friend that has the same enthusiasm as I have…

Since then, by the way, I’ve had the joy and luck of getting to know many other Turin Brakes fans, which is one of the best things to come out of my Turin Brakes fandom. And when I look at the past week on Twitter and Facebook and see so many of you unite together to get We Were Here stuck in as many heads as possible, it gives me a kind of thrill that I do not feel that often. It’s a rush of excitement and joy.

But back to that faithful day. We knew what the album was called but all we had to go on were some live YouTube videos of various degrees of quality. But, right then, accidentally we stumbled upon an Amazon page featuring the samples of the new album. They weren’t supposed to be online, but they were. As if it was a sign by the universe, we were able to listen to them for the first time, together as fans. It felt like the universe meant for us to hear these 30-second-samples. And we played them. And played them. And played them.

And then I was confused. Because for the first time, new Turin Brakes work literally reminded me of OLD Turin Brakes work. There was a similar vibe to some of these samples as Optimist era songs. There were nods to all the albums we’ve heard before. And Turin Brakes have never done that before… Is this a good thing? Aren’t we on a bus trip together stopping into lands unknown at each album era? I just wasn’t sure. Yes, those samples were damn catchy. So that was a good thing. But I didn’t know what to make of this, in my overanalyzing, obsessing ways. Turns out that 30-second-samples are crappy indicator of songs.

I had come to London for a little holiday break, but I also had send a cheeky e-mail to the band and offered to maybe help out with this album release anyway I could. You see, even though I make this fansite… If there’s anything, ANYTHING I can do to help this band achieve greatness I will do it. They’ve deserve it. They deserved it years ago. And they still do! So I want to help them get it. I can’t move the earth, but I can help cook up ways to promote this album, I figured.

So we had a business meeting of sorts, scheduled on a sunny Thursday in July. Only we didn’t do much business. And the meeting wasn’t in a conference center but in Brixton. In THE TB studio. And instead of talking cooky Instagram ideas or kidnapping radio DJs, we mainly listened to We Were Here. It was awesome. And all my worries were laid to rest. How’s that for something magical?

WeWereHereCoverAnd then the samples disappeared. And then I had to wait till October, as it turned out, to hear the full thing again. Yes, I had spoiled myself with some of the Soundcloud streams and some of the videos, but not all of the songs and not in one go. And, yes, I did consider streaming the whole thing on 30 September, 8 years after I first attended a Turin Brakes gig. But I wanted to listen to the whole thing on vinyl and cd. Hold the booklet, read the lyrics.

Despite hearing at least 7 of the songs in studio form and 9-10 songs in different live versions, I convinced myself, I hadn’t heard the full album again till it arrived on vinyl. And since then I’ve been listening: on the way to work, at home, even in the office I played it most of the day. And it’s amazing.

Because as most of you have heard by now, YES this album has some nods, but overall it feels new, epic, lovely and warm. Have you noticed the little details in the background? The strings that don’t choke the music, but enrich it. The crazy flute and guitar solos were you’re just not sure the little details in the background, all the different sounds, the counting (one-two-three-four), the confident infectious harmonies, the warmth of the record… This record combines what I’ve loved about this band over the past ten years with a new-found confidence and brilliance. If you don’t like We Were Here, then maybe Turin Brakes is just not for you…

My favourite songs at this moment are the feel-good Inbetween (I wish radios would play this!), the lovely Part of the World (I was walking through the suburbs in the Autumn sunshine this afternoon with this song on and it felt JUST perfect) and Dear Dad, but Guess You Heard (next single, please?), Stop The World and Goodbye are equally impressive. And while, to be honest, I’m not that big a fan of the live videos of Sleeper, when I play the studio version loud in my room when I get home, I can’t help but smile and do a little rock-along in front of the mirror.

The songs on here are strong and I hope they reach a BIG big audience. For reasons beyond my understanding, Turin Brakes aren’t likely candidates for hit singles these days, but to be perfectly honest – stick any of the songs on here on a heavy rotation playlist and half of the listeners of that station will keep humming it… That’s the power of the songwriting of songs like Inbetween, Guess You Heard and Time and Money. But whether it will happen without the aforementioned kidnapping of radio DJs…? I’ve got the plan in my top drawer. Call me!

Seriously though, great things can happen to great songs and who knows what might happen with these… This past week so many people have been doing their bit for We Were Here, it might just make the album top 40 in the UK. That means people are embracing these songs for what they’re worth. It means that these songs will most likely be part of these people’s lives for years to come. The album is just the starting point for these songs. Some will get a special place in our lives and get attached to the memories we are currently creating. The songs will remind us of those in years to come. Magical…

When I asked Olly in my interview what the central themes on the album were, he answered: “Loneliness, Isolation, but an underlying faith that whatever happens we’re all connected.” 

And connected we are, as fans and friends and band we stood together and supported some awesome music this last week and the many years before that (and for years to come, I might add). In the grander, cosmic scheme of things Turin Brakes often sing about, it almost renders any chart result irrelevant. Almost, because it would be a tremendous result that might lead to more people getting to know this record. Almost, because any result we achieved, we achieved together. And then, as much as the band made a statement with this album, the fans made one as well. And what better album to do that for than this one? 

As the title says, We Were Here.


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