One of the many bizarre twists of the enigmatic Pop game is the industry's ability to condone 'invisible' stars. Only just the other day I was reading the sleeve notes to a 'Best of' from power popsters The Motors, famous primarily for their massive hit 'Airport' in 1978. The notes went on to describe them as the “least recognizable superstars around” at the time and I doubt very much that they were ever hassled for autographs while shopping at Safeways even when they were blasting up the charts.
A post-millennial equivalent of this phenomenon may well be AQUALUNG frontman Matt Hales. Still sadly remembered mostly for his soundtrack to a car advert, he's nonetheless racked up five albums and sold millions of 'em in the US. Unlike The Motors' co-frontmen Andy MacMaster and Nick Garvey, Hales was apparently mobbed for autographs while attending – of all things – a Razorlight gig, yet plenty of folk would probably elbow him out of the way at the fish counter. In Hales' case, that apparently mattered. In 2007, he went so far as to announce to a London audience that he was packing the whole stinking thing in. “I thought I might just become a teacher instead,” he said.
The trouble with grand gestures, of course, is that you have to follow 'em up, yet it seems Matt Hales couldn't. Instead, he packed his bags, headed for sunny L.A and gradually reconsidered his stance, re-discovering his desire to write by collaborating on three songs with Leona Lewis. It felt good and before he knew it, the sixth Aqualung LP 'Magnetic North' (set for release on July 5th) was in the can.
Its' trailer single 'Fingertip' ain't half bad neither. While I wouldn't necessarily go bald-headed for it, it's extremely pleasant, mellifluous pop, built around an annoyingly catchy girly “doo doo doo” refrain and a punchy and immediate chorus. It won't make the earth move, but it will probably make your bedside table wobble a bit and will certainly sound good cannoning outta radios up and down the place.
Also included on my promo is another fine new track called 'Reel Me In'. Opening with Hales defiantly muttering “don't listen to the TV, don't listen to the radio, don't let anyone tell you the ship's going down” it's soon subjected to spiralling pianos, tumbling strings and an urgent vocal, all of which ramps up the cinematic drama to the nth degree. Tremendous, in a word.
Aqualung, then, are back. Quite a few of you probably didn't even notice Matt Hales' existential crisis, of course, but personally I think he's owed a little respect. I'm quite happy for him to push in front of me the next time I'm after some smoked salmon.