Monday, 2 May 2016

Arnold - Hillside Album (1998)

Some albums are instantly evocative of a time and place in your life, no matter how much time goes by; the effect can be compounded if it was an album you remember being released at the time.  This is my 'leaving home at 18' album; posting it now as I recently dusted it off and was surprised how good it still sounds, and also as a bit of self-commiseration now that I'm officially twice that age.

Arnold, named after the bassist's dog, were a three-piece from London who came to my attention through a magazine compilation of Creation Records artists.  Fleas Don't Fly stood out a country mile from the more ordinary indie fodder surrounding it - sounding off-kilter and woozy, full of wistful regret but coated in gorgeous vocal harmonies (a big plus for a Byrds/CSNY-nut like 18-year old me) - it was like a hangover in a song.

Hillside Album (released internationally as just 'Hillside') came out mid-summer '98 and soundtracked everything I did for months afterwards.  Hearing it now for the first time in years, it's still undeniable what a solid album this is.  From a core of pastoral psych-folk-pop, there's constant twists and turns throughout; songs that start with a gentle twang and suddenly morph into full-throttle powerpop (Ira Jones), lo-fi minatures (Country Biscuit), and tracks that aren't really songs at all, but collages of studio weirdness (Rabbit).  There's two extra tracks tagged on the end of track 14 - in a pisstake of the 90s obsession with CD 'secret tracks', the album notes helpfully point them out with the advice that 'these can be found easily, just leave the CD running for a minute'.

And there is Windsor Park.  Oh yes, there is Windsor Park, all propulsive lead guitar, weirdly buried samples of conversation, and elegaic images of student girls in the rain; this clear album highlight still gives me goosebumps.  If pre-OK Computer Radiohead had lightened up a bit and spent a stoned afternoon with a frisbee in the park, they might've sounded half as good as this.

And if
I could go back to the start
I would live in Windsor Park
and laugh

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