Turner Prize winner shows that he is as capable in music as he is in art
Martin Creed is generally known as a visual artist/performer. His is most renowned for ‘Work No. 227 Lights Go On and Off’, which won him the Turner Prize in 2001. So, his foray into music is an intriguing move. ‘Thoughts Lined Up’ features 24 tracks made up of similar and seemingly simplistic ingredients- a stripped back punkie tune, a vocal line from Martin, some harmonies, and repetitive lyrics. The result though, is a thought provoking exploration from the very personal to quite political.
The first track, ‘I’m Gonna Do Something Soon’ addresses the age old situation of procrastination. Like much of his artwork, the album concerns everyday thoughts and emotions that might be considered mundane, but are rendered important, universal and meaningful when expressed by Creed.
There are many excellent tracks here, but a couple of highlights include ‘Understanding’, a song about arguing and the trials of truly comprehending and listening to one another. Starting with a discordant minor key harmony stating “We’re bitten down, we’re clamped on, we won’t let go, we’re joined like dogs”, in Creed’s Glaswegian drawl, this is undercut by a jaunty guitar line and hand claps, “I’m understanding, I’m understanding, I’m understanding, I’m understanding, I’m listening, I’m listening, I’m listening, I’m listening.” The tune is thickened with percussion- the situation grows with the argument- “I’m a victim, no I’m a victim, no I’m a victim…”. The vocal lines start to undercut each other, both still similar, but made complex in the arrangement. The song grows until both parties are almost shouting “I’m listening…”
This is a punchy album that is almost like poetry on the page. The use of repetition builds and is almost writ large in the sky to imply a kind of live happening of the situation it describes. The middle part of the record concerns these difficult but typical thoughts. There is an undercurrent of philosophy- The Other for instance, is covered in ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.’ In a way, these songs are a great primer for interpreting these themes in an everyday kind of way.
This personal examination of irrational, but inevitable thoughts and feelings paves the way for the more political tunes towards the end. The idea that we all feel hate as in ‘Everyone Needs Someone to Hate’, comes back when migration and borders are discussed in the lilting, almost Beatles-esque ‘Let Them In’; “Let them people in. Give them a hug, let them stand on our silly bit of land”. The jaunty ‘Border Control’ focuses on these ideas too, “It’s border control, it’s a border, it’s a bore.” Perhaps the message from Creed is that we all have these impulses, but we don’t have to act upon them. We have love too.
The music itself is fun, simple intertwining tunes and melodies are replete with saxophone, flute, tambourine, drums and droney synth. The feel is punk, lo-fi, with its Glaswegian roots plain to see, stemming from Belle and Sebastian, perhaps. Each song is definitely under four minutes with many barely scraping one and a half.
The result is a composition that plays with palindrome and pattern. Fun and pain are here in equal parts. On one hand, the whole album is a bit much to listen to in a single sitting; on the other it does the work a disservice to disrupt this tapestry of interwoven messages and rhythm. It is replete with humour and humanity.
Finally, the sleeve art deserves a mention, featuring a dishevelled Creed in slacks, tank top, jelly shoes and socks, it is a riot of cut-and-paste colour; the live performance should be equally entertaining.
This Martin Creed article was written by Fraisia Dunn, a GIGsoup contributor.