Saturday, 21 November 2009
10. Leslie, King Creosote (2007)
In 2006, I fell in love with Scotland. Or, more precisely, I fell in love with the long journey north along Great Britain's backbone, the melancholy places I found, the lovely people I met. Among these with a group of musicians from Anstruther, known as the Fence Collective, and two people in particular – one of whom, James Yorkston, I'll be mentioning in a later dispatch. Today, I go back to one of my favourite memories as a music writer, a white, dusty van rattling through Northern Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, rain lashing its sides, laughter rocking its engine. I go back to my two days with King Creosote and the Earlies, and the most fun a girl – a girl like me, anyway – can have on four wheels.
I had flown up to Inverness in the early morning darkness, lights strung out across towns and villages like bulbs on a Christmas tree. I spent the day with the band there, and joined them the next day in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis – a shipping forecast station that was all stark hills and high waters, just as bleakly romantic as I hoped it'd be. Thankfully, Kenny Anderson, the man behind King Creosote, was a brilliant interviewee. All beard, grin and mad eyes, he was daft, warm and funny – happy to pose for photographs in front of castles and among standing stones, and adept at getting his hairy bandmates, a nervous support act (the very English and bewildered Jeremy Warmsley), a photographer and me into the busiest fish and chip shops to sing for our supper, the scariest pubs to hustle for a bitter. Their makeshift tour bus – a dodgy van that had long seen better days, and would definitely not pass Health and Safety tests – was our fancy chariot as we went about our business. It was brilliant. I remember the rowdy clamour of Pringles, Smarties and lagers spilling over back seats very fondly, and everyone doing impressions of Edward Woodward in the Wicker Man - Oh God, Oh Jesus Christ, Oh There Goes Another Can Of Fosters – as we wound through the wild, wintry weather, and held on for our lives.
That first night in Inverness, I also heard Leslie for the first time, the song would start Kenny's next record, 2007's brilliant Bombshell. It sounds like a small song at first, Kenny's thick, yearning accent set against an accordion's gentle yawns, to be joined later, on record, by wispy violin strings. But its weight, even that night in a little workingmen's club, was momentous. Its words snagged; its sentiments made my breath that much deeper.
It is a song about the strangeness of falling in love, I think; its lyrics both starkly conversational and strangely mysterious. In the first verse, a man finds a girl "grinning like a misbehaving child" behind the Hope Park Holy Wall, his insides "eating up the butterflies that kept hunger at bay", his nerves "playing crazy buggers with my sense of style". By the second verse, something profound has happened, and it seems like he has spent "twenty years just gazing at her face". There's no indication of how much time has passed, but there is the sense in this song that this is what love is like. It bends, it twists, it lengthens tiny moments to light years.
Only the chorus gives us a clue of what happens to our narrator. "Throw me round and down", Kenny sings, his voice managing to sound pleading, as well as mournfully resigned, "before I fall". He is his lover's victim, but a willing one, and I feel very similarly about this song. I always will be; happy to let its sadness pull me under, its tiny specks of hope lift me up.