I’ve always enjoyed travelling. Not just the being in new places part, although that’s good; I mean the act of travel itself. Air, land or sea, there’s something about travelling somewhere, moving, that I’ve always enjoyed. I think a part of that is the feeling of being semi-isolated. If you’re travelling then it’s basically OK to cut yourself off from the world, to switch off the phone and ignore the people who aren’t in your immediate vicinity, because you’re in transit. It’s a great time to sit back with some music, a film, a book (maybe even work, if you insist), and compose your thoughts.
It was on such a trip recently that I was listening to Stranded, the album by Roxy Music. I was on a plane, going… somewhere or other, I can’t recall. Since I first listened to this album, it’s one that I keep coming back to. And in particular, Mother of Pearl has always been a standout. I love the musicality – the whirlwind first couple of verses giving way to a more laid back melody, which perfectly matches the lyrics. It’s a great song. A Great song, even.
I’ve been looking for something
I’ve always wanted
But was never mine
But now I’ve seen that something
Just out of reach, glowing
Very Holy grail
Oh mother of pearl
Of a sacred world
Anyway. On this flight I had the album on, half-listening and half daydreaming. Then part way through one of the songs it grabbed my attention, a complete “fuck me this is good” moment. That song was Psalm.
Up to this point I’d always enjoyed Psalm, but not really got it. But at that moment it made sense. The music, pared-back, with every note perfectly placed. The lyrics, steeped in irony and dry as a martini. The song starts gently – peacefully, as you might expect a psalm to be. But with every bar, every beat, the song slowly builds to a withering crescendo:
And then you’ll see all that you should
Forget all your troubles
You will feel no pain
He’s all that you need
He’s your everything
And that’s why I love travel. A chance to gather your thoughts, get some distance (literal and metaphorical), and see things anew.