Of this week's abysmal dearth of new releases (once again), one release stands out: Aqualung's Strange and Beautiful. It is a beautiful set of Brit-Pop in the vein of Keane or Coldplay, piano driven, minimalist (both lyrically and musically, though there is orchestration) and. . . melancholy. Even sad.
If you're looking for lyrical profundity, this is not it. Matt Hales, the mainstay of Aqualung, writes entirely of relationships. Rather than give us symbols or metaphors that we can meditate on and give depth and complexity to the songs, he gives us emotions -- love lost, sadness, broken heartedness. And yet these days I'm almost more content with an album that emotes rather than sizzles with rage or denunciation of someone or something. I tire of the prophet, and so I appreciate the words of another human being sharing his honest emotions. It is a moving record, both because of the beauty of the melodies and the intensity of emotion, even if it doesn't nourish me with hope. And I suppose it is profound, only on an emotional rather than intellectual level.
Asked about the meaning or message of the record, Hales simply says "Life is brief. . . and the private things that go on between people are what define us, more than we know." So true, and yet there's so much more. It's a whole record of looking at life's horizontal dimension, never once seeing any vertical dimension, any transcendent meaning to give context to the relationships. The best we get is found here, in "Brighter Than Sunshine": Love burns brighter than sunshine/ Brighter than sunshine/ Let the rain fall I don't care/I'm yours and suddenly you're mine/ Suddenly you're mine/And it's brighter than sunshine. Is that enough? I don't think so.