Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝙇𝙞𝙛𝙚𝙗𝙤𝙖𝙩𝙨 - 𝙀𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙣𝙤𝙧 𝘾𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙞𝙙𝙚𝙨
Charles goes on a day-day…
The focus of late has been on England. Okay, Britain, if you wish. All right then, the Ewe Kay. The Far West of Europe…? Call it what you will, it has been in the press and on the tongues of most, this past week or so. Due of course, to the nature of all things royal. Yesterday gave me such immense pride. It was a sombre and unbelievably moving affair. A day to remember for the rest of time. Truly a fine end to a fine era, on a scale never witnessed before. For more crownly thoughts, have a read of last week’s review, here. For now, though, I would like not to run away from England quite yet. I wish to go back to a time when the Queen still reigned. Or more precisely, Saturday the 6th of August.
I was due to be going to a gig. My first outing of a musical variety since before the pandemic. In fact - perhaps rather surprisingly to some - the first gig I have been to in more than three years. Could even be longer, if I’m honest. I was so unused to the concept that I barely knew what to do. What IS there to do but turn up?? Well, little more, I suppose. But the whole thing loomed large on my noggin. I felt almost nervous, as if I were to be the one playing on stage. I call these rare little outings “day-days” - a queer expression my father came up with many moons ago. So, I was to be going on a day-day (occasionally pluralised despite only ever being singular). I was, as always, concerned about things that don’t matter and are of little consequence, such as what to wear, how to get there, the weather, what to bring, phone battery, timing, route, transport etc. And my ears. My sensitive ears that seem to be known as being particularly good, apparently. Or correction, at least one of them - “Charles has a really good ear”… I was concerned about the loudness of the giggidy gig. Now where exactly were my earplugs…? Rather amazingly, they were exactly where I thought they were - this NEVER happens. This was not a lone adventure, for I was to be going with my girlfriend, who has recently (finally) moved to London for us to have a jolly life together. We thought it might be fun to go exploring the area of the gig beforehand, in the pretty and unusual little town of Stoke Newington in N16, a postcode of London. The N stands for North, explaining why Stoke Newington is basically East. Bus times checked, food packed, shoes shined and moustache waxed, we headed for the front door to leave. I was at this moment thinking how well the timing had worked out, that this gig was on the Saturday, as we were both due to see my parents the following evening. A full packed weekend of goodness. My phone buzzed at exactly the moment my hand reached the door handle. One last check before slipping the slender gismo into my pocket for the day. It was a reminder on my calendar. It told me not to forget the gig tomorrow…
Tomorrow… ToMORROW??! How in God’s name did this happen?? Wait, is this right? Check, check, check. Yep, it’s right. “Shit”. That was all I could muster. Excuse the profanity, but this was both the time and the place. So here we were, all ready to go exactly nowhere. This really is becoming a day-daze! So what did we do? Well, I called my mother to explain that I had been a perfectly useless, very bad son indeed and that I would no longer be able to make it the following evening, as I had mucked up “royally” (both time and place), and we frittered the day beautifully. So. MUCH more precisely this time, the day was Sunday the 7th of August. The day already feels familiar… With ever so slightly less enthusiasm, we get ready. Having already had a dress rehearsal for the occasion, I am much more calm and lax. I also realise that the shine on my shoes is not so important for travelling to North London in the East. Moustache? Well, the place we’re going to IS called The Moustache Bar, after all. And the area is uber-trendy, so maybe another dollop of wax is necessary. The sun is shining, and so we go. One last check to see that I am not losing my mind. Slender gismo pocketed - we go.
As we descend the stairs, the sun hollers “à bientôt”, and we are here. It is dark. A good dark. It is cool and small. A genuine old London basement bar with everything you would expect, except maybe the smoke. I still miss the smoke in these places. What with the atmosphere, the nods and smiles and the feeling of being welcomed, I feel like I am in a clique, as if they are all quietly chanting “you could be one of us, happy with all of us”, but when the lights go down, the spotlight rises. And on stage is a young man with a guitar and long hair comforted by a trilby. His support seems to be half of Essex. And my WORD, they are supportive. People from Essex seem to have the most incredible sense of fun, and really do make me think of the old Cockneys doing the Lambeth Walk. This chap on stage has them singing their hearts out and dancing like Simon Callow in Four Weddings and a Funeral - “It’s Bloody Brigadoon!”. Quite a way to start! Act II brings beer II. A very cool young lady with possibly the largest genuine afro I have ever seen. She sports a blend of the 70s and the 90s in the form of tie-dye flares in colours rarely seen together, for obvious reasons. She has no fan collective, but she has a keyboard and a backing beat. Her cool tones somewhat reminded me of our great New Artist Spotlight legend, Smoothsaylin. Me likey. The headliner went by the name of Amir, who was convinced he was the new king of, well, basically everything. His swagger and confidence was astounding, but also slightly nauseating. Sure, he was talented, but I personally could have done with a little toning down of the pride that teetered ever so slightly into arrogance.
It was the penultimate act that pricked my unusual conscience. This was after all, the very reason I was here in the first place. To see NAS artist Eleanor Collides on stage, live. We only know each other through the New Artist Spotlight, and had never met in person. This was about to change. Two fellow Englanders as Eleanor Collides with CC. Don’t worry, we weren’t THAT drunk. An unusually tall chap propped up the wall at the side of the basement venue. I recognised his floppy curl of dark hair instantly. Having less hair myself, I tend to focus on hair as I am extremely jealous. The man had glitter on his face, which at any other place would have stood out. But here, it blended well and simply took that more usual sparkle in the eye, and moved it cheekwards. Perhaps he was trying to take the focus away from his eyes…? Nick Ranga is his name, but most call him Eleanor. Why, you might ask…? Well when he was around 2 years old, he had an imaginary friend called Eleanor. It then became the sort of alter-ego of Nick. Eleanor was the fun, creative personality of the otherwise introverted chap. Where Nick feels he maybe doesn’t fit in, Eleanor collides with the world, glitter et al. So at this moment I was not shaking the hand of Nick, but of Eleanor. The lack of confidence however was not completely thrown to the wind, as he was still rather nervous about playing and singing - as I would be. But he assured me that once he is up on stage, he always loved it.
His time to shine was now. There was no fanfare, no blast, and no crazed fans screaming for Eleanor - not to say there were no fans. You see, fans of Eleanor are like Eleanor. They are subdued and deep in thought. They are there for the feeling, and it is this that I want to try and portray. We have had the hooting Essex boys. We have swayed to the relaxing sounds of the big hair, and we had not yet been struck by arrogance at the last. Here we had an unassuming man alone on a small stage, guitar in hand. There was a cold honesty that soothed like a warm breath, even before greeting us. Gone were the politely plastic “good vibes” of the previous acts. Eleanor’s awkwardness had seemingly cured the room as he strummed the first chord. In fact he reminded me a little of The Cure singer, Robert Smith. They even shared the same eyeliner! Eleanor’s smooth voice is deep. It is real as it booms through the speakers and across our ears. I was involved in a subtle way. Or at least I FELT involved - I was in a trance, under his spell. THIS was the feeling he managed, effortlessly, consciously or not. But it was at the moment he started the opening chords of his latest single that I truly felt special. Yes, I, felt special. Not IT. At the time, the song had not yet been released, but I knew it well. Not because it is a cover, and not because I had hired a time machine at some point in the past (or was it the future?). Nick had decided he wanted me to put the finishing touches on his next single, Lifeboats. So having done final mixing and full mastering, I was very much familiar with every single note of the song. For me, it is without a doubt his best song so far. But could he do it live on his own with only an acoustic guitar? Yes, is the short answer. Its melody floated to the back bar like a heavy mist, and slowly settled. The evening’s acts had been good and entertaining, but a little on the dry side. Eleanor opened reality, and Lifeboats saved us from drowning in the drought. The waves were once again heaving and there was danger in the air, but through the uncertain current, I was safe all the while.
Let us turn briefly to the official recorded version, which has since been honoured by being placed on a Spotify editorial playlist - something I still have yet to achieve, myself. And it has only been out for 10 days or so! The whole song conjures the heavy acoustic sound of the late 80s/early 90s. There are smatters of R.E.M. and smears of Duran Duran. Shards of Manic Street Preachers and wisps of Tears for Fears. The bass and drums lay a deep foundation for the topsoil of strumming guitars, as the stems of Eleanor’s voice seek the light above, and through their trials, succeed. The dark repeated synth is not repetitive or monotonous, but meditative, much like Eleanor’s presence in a live setting. It is haunting, yet suggests we will make it to the other side. An inspired melody carries this tune through to the end with not so much confidence, as experience. It was truly an honour to mix, and Spotify was right to choose it for one of its sainted playlists. I am quietly proud that this is my first mix to have made it onto an editorial playlist, but I really can only take the tiniest bit of credit (if any), for it is Eleanor Collides and his fabulous song that deserve the praise.
No matter how much wax was used, my moustache had other plans - no doubt my slender gismo will let me know another day-day.
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