Sonnets…what’s that all about? Why fourteen lines? Why ten syllables? Who made those rules? And yet what amazing portals into human consciousness have been opened up within that structure.
I am no John Donne, senator, but Nerve Pylon was my attempt to produce a sonnet in song form. It even has its own metaphysical conceit: instead of stepping back to look at a problem, I do the opposite and perform a kind of Fantastic Voyage manoeuvre, zooming down to a sub-microscopic level to observe the nervous system and emotions as detachedly as one might observe power cables strung across a landscape.
Musically, it had a long evolution. The chorus chords required a retuning of the top two guitar strings to C so that they could chime while the lower strings modulated between F, C and G. Originally just these three chords going round and round in a somewhat motorik style, subsequently the ballad-style verse was spliced in. Nerve Pylon became by far our most dramatic and emotional song, and with the funny tuning, a real bugger to play live.
It was also, along with B-side Over The Brow, our one and only 24-track recording, as most subsequent sessions took place at the 16-track Blackwing Studio in Southwark. After the austerity of Cool Snap we were hungry for more of a musical feast, and the Matrix and Barge studios with their racks of delays and reverbs gave us every opportunity.
The sleeve was partly hand-printed, a massive operation that took over a couple of rooms at 21 Manor Road for a few days.
Reviews…ay! “Lax and addled” was the conclusion of the bloke at the NME , along with the usual comparisons to other people. More recently, though, folks have been kinder: in 2013 Nerve Pylon was included in the massive Cherry Red retrospective Scared To Get Happy and Alex Petridis at the Guardian singled it out as being “haunting”, like the man of taste and discernment that he undoubtedly is.