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Nile you were waiting
Four albums in two decades may seem like a poor return, but not when the music is as gentle and wondrous as that made by The Blue Nile. Ahead of a rare live turn, frontman Paul Buchanan explains why he likes to take things slowly.
Craig Fitzsimons, 29 Nov 2006
Contrary to popular perception, The Blue Nile have never actually broken up.
Yet they tend to be spoken of in the past tense, with even hardcore fans often assuming that their long-running saga has ended without fanfare. It doesn’t require great detective skill to work out why: over a career spanning from 1984 to the present day, the band have cranked out a total of four albums. Four. (To put this in perspective, The Fall have released a miserly 20 studio albums in the same time-frame).
Paul Buchanan ascribes this less-than-prolific track record, in part, to his own perfectionism: “We could have easily put out twice the number of LP’s we have done, and it all would have been probably as good a standard as what was put out, but maybe I was a too obsessive about quality control. Even the records we released, I look back and think ‘Shite, that could have sounded a wee bit better’ or ‘I should have gone with a different lyric’. I’ve tried to stop beating myself up as I get older, cause it doesn’t change or achieve anything. We all felt that it’s hard enough to get people to listen to the records in the first place, so if you want to earn respect and credibility, you’ll lose both by putting out material that’s noticeably below-par. I talk to other bands who say, ‘Ah, we weren’t happy with that’, but they shrug their shoulders and don’t seem at all bothered. I find that hard to understand.”
Whatever about the quantity, no-one seriously refutes the quality of The Blue Nile’s output. For sure, it would be stretching the point to describe The Blue Nile as a “cult” band. They number Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Annie Lennox and Melanie Chisholm among their fans – none of them exactly underground icons – and all, bar Lennox, have covered Blue Nile songs.
Still, their apparent accessibility is somewhat deceptive: Buchanan’s gentle, down-tempo compositions contain some seriously eye-opening, world-weary lyrics, with an almost McGowan-like flair for observing and conveying the magic in apparently mundane, everyday situations. Though much of the material is so sombre as to verge on the morose, they’re not averse to letting light through the curtains on occasion: ‘Happiness’, for instance, sounds for all the world like a black gospel-singing Southern Baptist congregation hitting heights of ecstasy.