Tim Burgess has today (September 23) released his new, 22-track double album ‘Typical Music’ – an album he said he was “trying to create a wow factor” with.
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“People are hearing tracks like ‘The Centre Of Me (Is A Symphony Of You)’, or ‘After This’ or ‘Magic Rising’ and going ‘wow’,” Burgess told NME. “They’re really excited by them. Because that’s what I wanted. What we were trying to create was a wow factor with this exciting music, cartoon music, just everything in the mix.”
Recorded at Rockfield studios with regular collaborators Daniel O’Sullivan and Thighpaulsandra, ‘Typical Music’ is the result of an intense six-month writing period during lockdown. “I started writing because there was no touring really,” Burgess explained. “Simon from Bella Union suggested that I won’t be touring for a while, so ‘why don’t you just write another record?’ and I thought, ‘OK’.
“I didn’t manage to write anything for about six months, even though I was trying. I just thought, ‘I don’t know what’s happening, maybe it’s because I’ve not had any new experiences or anything like that’. And then I wrote ‘Time That We Call Time’, and after that, it just started flying out of me. There was just no stopping it, it was like I was possessed or something, it was weird. I didn’t write anything for six months and then wrote 22 songs in six months.”
The songs, Burgess claimed, seemed to arrange themselves, taking whichever stylistic twists they needed, which made for a vastly varied collection taking in space-age lounge-pop, psych-rock, Morricone stampedes and surf-punk, to name just a few of its catalogue of genre references.
“Everything was written on acoustic guitar, and it just decided which way things were gonna go,” he said. ‘Here Comes The Weekend’ I think of Jonathan Richman and The Velvet [Underground], ‘Curiosity’ is like a carnival, there’s bits of 10cc and Sparks and a real rush of stuff.
“There’s some hip-hop stuff in there that I kind of like, I wanted to make it a bit more electronic than the last album. There’s some Fugazi meets Beach Boys in ‘L.O.S.T.’, and then it goes into a Panda Bear style thing. These are all things that I’m loosely quoting, but really it was just our experience in the studio with the songs that we had and trying to make them sound as good as we could.”
Burgess added that the new record felt like his own ‘White Album’, saying: “I’ve always thought I had a ‘White Album’ in me!… I’ve always wanted to do [a double album]. I thought I could do one on the last one [2020’s ‘I Love The New Sky’], but just run out of time – not songs, I ran out of time. And with this one, I wanted to just give everything that I had, and that was 22 songs.”
The musician continued to say that streaming culture – which is often thought to be driven by short attention spans – wasn’t a concern of his when making or releasing the 22-track album. “I don’t really mind whether they are or whether they’re not because I think that the world is so open that anything goes,” he explained. “I kind of learned with the listening parties that people were prepared to listen, and I figured why not? Maybe people are prepared to listen to two albums.”
The album, written amid much personal upheaval for Burgess, maintains an uplifting and optimistic tone, and he has recently said that he “fell in love with the world again”. “I think that was through the listening party,” he said. “People relying on each other and finding how important music was to people, that kind of made me just fall in love with the world again.
“The outside world is pretty crazy, but the world I was trying to create is okay. While I was making the record, Brexit had happened, COVID was happening, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and everything was collapsing in this country, the strikes. Everyone’s gone mad, but making the album and doing the listening parties was a really good time, actually, for me.”
Tracks like ‘In May’ and ‘When I See You’ reflect the flush of new romance, but Burgess explained that while there are songs about “a certain someone” on the record, it is largely about his relationship with his son.
“I’m not in a relationship with his mum anymore and there’s songs that I was making during that time, where I was trying to reassure him that things were gonna be fine and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Some of his sayings would crop up in certain songs – ‘bandages and blue drinks’, I think comes from Minecraft.
“There’s songs about my dad who died during COVID, and it’s a very beautiful thing because I was fortunate enough to spend the last three days of his life just sitting next to him, and I would never have missed that for the world. And then yes, of course, I have fallen in love again, which is just a peaceful thing.”
There are also entertaining references to Burgess meeting up with Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame for tea in Notting Hill (on ‘A Quarter To Eight’), or with Dexys Midnight Runners‘ Kevin Rowland “and singing ‘There, There, My Dear’” (‘After This’) and, on the title track, “communing with an alien” in 1983. “Aliens are all around us, you know,” Tim joked. I guess it was much easier to meet aliens in the ‘80s. “Yeah, it was, in the ‘80s.”
The album closes with the karmic message that ‘What’s Meant For You Won’t Pass You By’. “It’s an old Scottish saying, and I thought it was very intriguing,” Burgess said. “If the album is about shedding skin and transformation and something that was recorded basically with masks on, then I was thinking that every song opened another portal to another universe. Right? And so, the final song, ‘What’s Meant For You…’ is kind of like where you can lean back and just let whatever will be will be. If the planets align, then it’s all gonna work out.”
Beyond the new album, Burgess will release a second volume of his The Listening Party book and hints at the further evolution of his celebrated Twitter Listening Parties. “It’s shape-shifting a little bit and that’s very exciting,” he said. “If anyone thought [the second book] wasn’t gonna be as good as volume one, I just got a sample a couple of days ago, and the first page I opened to was Nirvana, the second one was Blondie, and then after that, it was Yoko Ono and John Lennon.”
As he heads off to tour Japan, Australia and New Zealand with The Charlatans, there are rumblings from the band’s studio too. “It’s small amounts,” he revealed, “but we’ve got a couple of songs that sound great.”
Tim Burgess’ new album ‘Typical Music’ is out now via Bella Union