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“Got to stop the world
And let me off
Stop this ride
I've had too much.”
In 2003, British Indie Folk/Folk-Rock duo Turin Brakes, childhood friends Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian (both vocalists and guitarists) enjoyed a big hit single with the song Pain Killer (Summer Rain), which made it all the way to No. 5 on the U.K. Singles Chart. The accompanying album Ether Song sold well, too (U.K. No. 4), as did their next full-length release, JackInABox (U.K. No. 9). To this date, Turin Brakes have sold over one million records internationally, and, according to the duo, this degree of commercial success put significant pressure on them. However, during the course of twelve years and five studio albums, Turin Brakes’ self-confidence grew considerably, as their fanbase proved themselves to be faithful followers. By the time the duo went into the studio to record their sixth album, We Were Here, they no longer worried about delivering another hit single; they merely focused on writing and recording music of a consistently high quality.
This newfound self-assurance allowed Turin Brakes to really come into their own as songsmiths, musicians, craftsmen, which resulted in the duo’s hitherto strongest work. Not that it was an easy process. Olly Knights: “Some records in the past have almost fallen together by luck, but this was the first since The Optimist LP, where we obsessed over each element.” Adds Gale Paridjanian: “We did very long days. It was like being on a spaceship, leaving the planet for a bit.” Speaking of “spaceship” and “leaving the planet”, several of the songs on We Were Here explore a more spacey, celestial sound, which the duo aptly describes as “Kind of classic Turin Brakes, with a bit of Psychedelia, a follow-up to the first album with that added Psychedelic element.”
As the album title suggests, the soul-searching lyrical content deals with all sorts of existential issues, ranging from mourning the loss of one’s childhood dreams and fantasies to the obligations and restrictions of adulthood, our place in this world, our relatively short life span in the bigger scheme of things, and the imprint we leave. If that sounds like a depressing prospect, it isn’t really; it’s more of a celebration of life – a reminder to enjoy and make the most of it, while we’re here. To the sound of acoustic guitar instrumentation, including a warm, ‘70s-indebted, typically So-Cal-sounding solo, Time And Money – the album’s first single – depicts the predicament of modern-day society, the tug-of-war between material goods and spirituality, the conflicts between career ambitions, financial necessities and family values (“Time and money / Money and time / You love unconditional, that is your crime / Time and money / Money and time / You love unconditional, you hold the line”).
Bright, clear and chiming acoustic guitars accompany We Were Here, a musically upbeat/lyrically downbeat Folkish ballad that recalls Neil Finn/Crowded House. The epic Blindsided Again reveals a very different musical influence by way of its Pink Floyd-esque production (circa 1973’s The Dark Side Of The Moon) and the intensely Psychedelic, David Gilmour-inspired electric guitars that permeate this nearly six minutes long, sonically charged, whimsical track. Stop The World starts off with acoustic guitar strumming, upon which drums and electric slide guitar kick in, but these elements only serve as the build-up to the song’s real attractions, its wistful refrain (“Got to stop the world and let me off / Stop this ride, I've had too much”) and a distinct, rather gorgeous synth motif. The album’s most obvious radio hit would be the rollicking Guess You Heard, a catchy and charming number featuring electric/acoustic guitars, touches of brass, and an infectiously uplifting sing-along chorus. We Were Here ends with Goodbye, an apt title because it’s the last song on the album, but even more so because it reads like a tribute to the life we lived when “we were here”. A slow-burning, luminous campfire ballad, it’s one of the most atmospheric and affecting songs Turin Brakes have ever recorded.