Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Bluebells: Exile On Twee Street

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that the demos are always better than the 'proper' recordings,” Bluebells bassist Lawrence Donegan claims.

The 20 demos on Exile On Twee Street don’t fully support that claim. The Bluebells’ vision of fusing Celtic folk passion with jangling Byrds guitars and Lovin’ Spoonful melodic intensity is only fully realised on some of their songs when they had a major label’s recording budget.

But some of the original versions here are better - Red Guitar is more powerful with its demo spit than it is with London’s polish. Small Town Martyr regains its poise and whip stripped bare of 80s production values. And Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, their mooted Postcard debut, would in its reckless abandon to romantic vagaries need no reworking.

The Bluebells were progenies of Orange Juice. And they were much better at realising their vision on a major label than Orange Juice. So Exile On Twee Street is no Ostrich Churchyard, the album Orange Juice would have put out on Postcard.

Every song on Ostrich Churchyard that was redone on Polydor for You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever shows higher production values didn’t benefit Orange Juice. All their songs had greater effect on a shoestring budget. When Edwyn Collins misses every one of the high notes covering Al Green’s L-O-V-E (Love) you can imagine Polydor’s A&R department looking for a release clause in Orange Juice’s contract. Failure never sounded so glorious.

The Bluebells’ One Last Love Song, Wishful Thinking and No One Ever Waves Goodbye wouldn’t sound out of place on Ostrich Churchyard. There’s a fantastic album in Exile’s 20 tracks. Maybe the forthcoming vinyl issue will reveal what the band think that might be.

I know what I think the album might be; you, too, will have your favourites because there are many great songs here. There are also many great songs on The Bluebells’ 1984 album, Sisters: Syracuse University, Cath and I’m Falling, for example.

They were a great band. Maybe in the early 80s there was only room at the top for one band in the charts, Dexys, to combine Irish folk music with searing passion. But The Bluebells had hits and they looked at home on the pop star circuit:

Yes, they scored a posthumous number one with Young At Heart on the back of a TV ad in 1993. But that’s a different story entirely. The real story - and what a story - is somewhere in Exile On Twee Street.


  1. Just got this & enjoying on a first listen!

  2. OC better than YCHYLF? Nah. Nope. Nooo!

  3. Compare OC Tender Object and contrast YCHYLF Tender Object, for example. I know which one has the atmosphere, which one really puts across the bruised romanticism. But each to their own!