Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops

Blue NileI’ve always tried to avoid nostalgia whilst writing for this blog, but frankly that’s been pretty easy. I was raised on a steady diet of The Beatles, The Carpenters, Dire Straits and Now That’s What I Call Music Volume 2. How you’re supposed to be all misty eyed about the past when you’ve heard “Oh Bla De Oh Bla Da” for the thousandth fucking time is beyond me. As such, there’s very few songs I hear that I think off fondly when I remember the 80’s. Sorry, but I wasn’t listening to Devo, Joy Division and so forth when I was 7. One band does have a place in my heart though, especially when I think of my Glasgow upbringing. In between What Everyone Wants commercials and trips to Pizza Land off George Square, the Blue Nile made me think of my home city. “The Downtown Lights” and “Tinseltown In The Rain” were ingrained in my consciousness as songs about the city, and specifically my city.

It’s easy to get caught up in the few stories about the Blue Nile; the fact they were signed by an electronics firm who wanted to show off their new fangled CD players; The fact the band have released only 4 albums between 1984 and 2004. They’re often derided as peers of the God-awful 80’s white soul bands, but the Blue Nile are much different. More akin to the lush pop sounds of Talk Talk (them again) and the nocturnal soundscapes of the Pet Shop Boys: gentle and precise in their music. Paul Buchanan’s soulful voice is sounds more mature and sincere compared to so many pop dullards of the age. There’s a directness to the lyrics (“I am in love with you” A Walk Across The Rooftops) but also a sense of place and time.

Obviously the highlight is “Tinseltown” in the rain, a song that perfectly captures a winter’s night, with people hurrying around and cars waiting at the lights. It’s a song that I’ve loved since I was young and it’s hard for me to be objective about it. I know it’s a song that many of you will actually know and maybe love too. Spanning only 7 tracks and 38 minutes, A Walk Across The Rooftops is still a wonderful album, as it manages to escape it’s 80’s production (a blight that puts me off a lot of music from that era).

The Blue Nile – Flags And Fences (Part 1 of a 1990 BBC documentary on the band):


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