'Wakelines' is an album about beginnings. But it’s about home, and belonging too.
Stories of family and memory form the substance of these songs, as Colin McIntyre explores the boy within the man – dredging the well of himself to bring diamond-bright ‘firsts’ into the light.
Fitting then, that it was recorded at producer Bernard Butler’s home in London – and was the first time the two have worked together. There’s a real intimacy here, a confessional feeling.
But for all its earnest touches, it opens with a jolt. ‘Wakelines’ scissor-kicks into life, as McIntyre rocks and rolls through a study on leaving home. ‘Why do you need to go tonight?’ he wails, as he conflates the personal with the plight of political migrants, uprooted and rehomed to unknown and unwelcome landscapes. It’s a bold touch. Butler’s production, and occasional playing, brings a burst of febrile energy that we don’t often get from the Mull Historical Society. And it’s exciting.
‘Clementine’ is another stormer, recounting “50 I’m going to change my minds” as he travels over land and sea to a place of “finally feeling different”. So different, in fact, that he long for another self entirely.
We’re back on familiar terra firma with the love songs. “There’s a shape in my head that fits you,” sings the delicate ‘Little Bird’, all twinkle eyes and pixie laugh. And with ‘Fourteen-Year-Old Boy’, we’re addressing the man with the child in his eyes again. “You held my guitar above your head, you waded to the water’s edge,” he recalls. It’s about his first guitar – carried aloft by his father above the rolling waves of the Isle of Mull, an almost-biblical gesture that ultimately brought us this record.
The Northern Star’s in there somewhere too, steering us back on course, and in the synaesthesia of teenage memory, “it smells like burning toast”. Home isn’t really a place, or a person. Home is a thing to be found in the heart and the head. No matter how far we go, from our houses or selves, our memory is the key to unlock it.
And this occasionally uneven, frequently thrilling, plunge into the past proves that sometimes the only way we can go forwards is by looking back.
Words: Marianne Gallagher
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