Have you ever stayed up to watch the sunrise? Do so at least once in your life. There's a lovely moment in the movie Marie Antoinette where our heroine and cohorts see in the new dawn. Sofia Coppola sets her scene to New Order's Ceremony and I, for one, am not complaining. So if you're a blithe young spirit like Kirsten Dunst, partying through the night, then settle down somewhere appropriate to watch sunup. The alarm clock really won't do. You see, it's all about the anticipation. Certainly when the morning sun breaks there's nothing quite like it, but the sensation is heightened all the more for waiting. The light, in the moments beforehand, is quite eerie. The horizon is a mad colour. Flowers are closed. Birds are stirring. Everyone and everything, it seems, knows what is about to happen. It's one of life's few certainties. And then it arrives. The sun hits and it is glorious. Goosebumps are perfectly excusable at times like these.
Dead Guitars is the latest project from Carlo van Putten and there are plenty of sunrise moments on this impossibly lovely record. For those less familiar, Carlo van Putten is something of a cult indie figure in Holland and Germany. Best known for his band The Convent, van Putten also forged a close partnership with Adrian Borland in their White Rose Transmission project. Strong associations are also held with The
Chameleons and The Church. Luminous company then, but I can't help wondering now whether Airplanes was the record he has always been threatening to make. Destined to make, perhaps?
Just check opener Name of the Sea. Emerging out of a loop that recalls
Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, Name of the Sea proves itself
a quite different song entirely. There's a comforting warmth to the layered
guitars that accompany van Putten's world-weary croon. It's beautiful, certainly,
but what lifts this song into excellence is the delicate balance the band builds
between optimism and melancholy. Van Putten's sage lyrics feel as though they've
seen it all. "Summer will come" he sighs, but is it the mantra of a non-believer?
Any comfort we might take from the (soon-to-be blazing) guitars remains deliciously
ambiguous. I have not heard such reflective maturity in alternative rock since
The Cure's last masterpiece, Bloodflowers. Somewhere along the
way, rock music neglected its own power to take the listener on a journey.
Van Putten never forgot.
I should make clear Dead Guitars are an ensemble piece. Twin guitarists Pete
Brough and Ralf Aussem bring plenty to the table. The layering they employ
on Airplanes satisfy in a similar way to something like James' Sometimes.
And Airplanes itself is no one-trick pony. Yes, there are times
you might think you're listening to a loose concept album. Themes of planes,
crashing, and the sea all pop up with regularity. Yet these never confine or
restrain where the album wishes to go. Jauntier numbers such as Sweet Revenge and This
Was a Year add variety and punctuate the general air of sadness. Somehow
we know that however bad it gets, the sun WILL come up tomorrow.
Live with this album for a little while. Play it hard. Suddenly, you realize it's a classic. You know you'll play it again, and you know just what to expect every time.