Monday, 20 October 2008

Jethro Tull "War Child" (1974) (News, Views and Music 9)


An Old Favourite I’m Currently Grooving To: “Warchild” (Jethro Tull, 1974) “Skating away on the thin ice of a new day”...:

Not the best of Tull albums by a long shot, but one of the most impressive from an experimental point of view. The story goes that following the homeless epic ‘Aqualung’, an album that only became seen as a concept album after the release despite the fact that most of the tracks feature some poor down and out soul, lead singer, writer and one-legged flautist Ian Anderson decided to make the mother of all concept albums and duly delivered two of the strangest albums ever made; ‘Thick As A Brick’ (with a 42-minute track about a poem submitted by a 12-year-old into a national poetry competition which was then censored) and ‘A Passion Play’ (for which your guess is as good as mine as to what on earth is going on!) Getting slightly bored with the format, next album ‘Warchild’ isn’t really a ‘concept’ album either—it certainly doesn’t have much to do with war or children as its title suggests—but it sounds like it should be. Most of the tracks are linked by sound effects, mainly tinkling cutlery and glasses as if the songs are being overheard at some dinner party, which arguably gives the tracks surrounding them a feeling of unity that they don’t deserve.



It’s a patchy album this, but well worth getting for one well renowned classic and two forgotten gems. ’Skating away on the thin ice of a new day’ is as beautiful as it sounds and is easily the best of Tull’s occasional pastoral songs. The feeling of renewal and of each day giving us a new chance to better ourselves has never sounded lovelier or more enticing and Anderson’s flute-playing is at its complicated breathy best here. Elsewhere, there are two fine and impressively peculiar rockers to enjoy. ‘Sealion’ starts off like one of the heaviest rockers in the Tull back catalogue but somehow loops it’s lopsided riff back into the childlike carnival chorus every so often as if the whole thing is a game and not as serious as the narrator makes it sound. The strange juxtaposition really wouldn’t work for most tracks—but here the idea is very clever, mirroring the angry, controlling narrator’s desperate attempts to make something of himself only to end up back in exactly the same laughable position, like a sealion performing tricks for others to see in some bizarre carnival. ‘Two Fingers’ is just as good but just as strange, mixing peaceful and nosy sections together because the narrator of this one seems to be unsure whether to work with the system or send it up. A bit like the record itself, which is one of the politest rebel-rousing albums of the turbulent early 1970s! Most reviled moment: annoyingly, the best known track —how often does that seem to happen on this list? - is easily the worst, as the semi-hit single ‘Bungle in the Jungle’ is a one-joke line in search of a song and a decent tune. Ah well, that’s what CD skip buttons were invented for! Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫ (5/10).


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