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Gerard Langley | LIT (Europa/Art Star)
Forget 'album of the year', here's a contender for 'artefact of the year'. Limited to a release of just fifty copies (mine's number forty-seven), restless Blue Aeroplane pilot Gerard Langley reads twelve poems by various pre-Beat luminaries, over backings provided by various post-Beat bands. If nothing else, the packaging is quite something; not 'lavish' exactly, but embossed like a thick old book. Two Ann Sheldon cover paintings open to reveal a collage of poets, together with a notepad/booklet of the words, the whole thing housed in numbered paper bags. Designed by Sam Giles in Bristol, I don't see how the economics of this quite make sense, but then true art is never held back by the demands of Mammon, or as MacNeice himself puts it "Tonight we sleep on the banks of the Rubicon - the die is cast; there will be time to audit the accounts later, there will be sunlight later and the equation will come out at last".
As for the CD, it's a scary, funny, tearful and thought provoking success: instrumentals and/or lo-fi covers of works by Calexico, John Cale, Love, Big Star, Bob Dylan (i.e. bands that the Blue Aeroplanes are oft compared to) house readings by TS Elliot, Dylan Thomas, Neruda, Plath, Louis MacNeice, ee Cummings, WH Auden and others (i.e. poets that Langley's own writing, at its best, resembles). Whispers of Immortality and from Anno Domini in particular already sound like new 'Planes classics, and perhaps give a hint to what a revitalised band with a new deal might deliver. (But hang on, hang on, the water was blue... listening more closely the 'Calexico' track could easily be a Planes outtake. Cul de Sac is surely Ian Kearey. The 'John Cale' could be him, but by now I'd wager this is Herbert-signed John Matthias on violin. The 'Love' track, yes its a song from 'Forever Changes', The Good Humor Man, but played by maybe Joff Lowson. Big Sky? 'R.E.M.' - mate that's Angelo Bruschini on guitar, maybe an outtake from 'Beatsongs'. Only the 'Bob Dylan' sounds like it could be the real thing.
So perhaps this is the new Aeroplanes album, a double bluff? Anyway, I digress ..) Langley of course has pursued this 'literary' idea for many years, and some of the tracks here are from older Blue Aeroplanes releases, i.e. an alternative mix of The Applicant from 'Swagger', Autumn Journal XXIV a b-side from the 'Yr Own World' 12" with twelve string wizard Ian Kearey, or the awesome Police (38 Divinity) the Greg Corso piece, first available on the 'Action Painting' EP on Fire Records from the mid '80s. "Starmeat, them cops'd eat starmeat" Gerard/Corso shout, sinking in a haze of riot gas and Branca-esque droning guitars. Some of the poems seem strangely relevant to some contemporary global atrocity, or barbed asides on the contradictions of the human condition - see True Love by Wislawa Szymborksa - that remain as unsolved as ever. Consumerism solved nothing, buddy.
Pretentious? Mais oui, but in a sea of 'worthy' (read 'dull') corporate products vying for our comfort zones, this is like a squawking alarm clock in a cardboard box, a genuine curiosity. Contact to obtain one of the last three copies.

Richard Bell
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003