As the dark and languid grooves of Blue Skies ooze from the speakers, you realise that the optimistic weather of the title isn’t matched by the sonic climate of the music. But that’s okay, juxtaposition is a great card to play and why live up to the listener’s expectations when you can confound them?
There is an almost trip-hop vibe to the skittering drum patterns and the downbeat energy which greets your ears, plenty of understated, alt-rock darkness and no small whiff of a late-era, Bowie-esque soundscape. And although the song seems fairly simple and spacious, these first beats wrap themselves in some wonderfully ornate textures – raw and resonant guitars, brooding basses which form a depth-charge melody echoing up from the deep, and further down the line some gentley chiming pianos.
But it is the composition and self-editing that makes all of this work and Mecuzine seem to be the masters of these processes. The song’s bruised and brooding tone is created by keeping everything subdued, even the most striking guitar motifs are kept in check and the music seems to sit like a dark sonic cloud on the horizon. The thunder never breaks, the lightning never strikes and the song prefers to hint at atmospheric and anticipation rather than deliver them.
None other than Alfred Hitchcock defined the difference between an action and a suspense movie by placing a metaphorical bomb under the table. If it explodes then you are in an action movie, if it doesn’t then it is suspense. Blue Skies is definitely in the latter category.
The question of genres often raises its head with such music. I would say that if you need things neatly packaged, especially in this, post-genre age, then you probably won’t get the stark beauty of Blue Skies anyway. Music isn’t made to conform to a template, to fit neatly into pre-ordained boxes, music, the best music at least, is all about sonic exploration and pushing boundaries. And this song is certainly all about that. Most categories are too vague anyway and terms such as alt-rock, post-punk, underground indie and the like are both on the money and increasingly pointless when it comes to songs such as this.
All you can do is let the song work its magic. Let the languid tones wash over you, appreciate the understated elegance and restrained eloquence, watch the dance between established sounds and modern exploration play out.
Blues Skies is a great song. But more than that it is one following its own pathway, playing by its own rules and swerving establishment and expectation. Shouldn’t all artists be trying to walk such roads less travelled anyway?