Hats was the second album released by Scottish group The Blue Nile.
There are some groups whose first release, though exciting, is clearly more of an indication of their future potential than an example of their best work. In such cases, it's exciting to hear of a second release. You more or less know you're going to hear something a little closer to what the group is really capable of.
And then there are groups like The Blue Nile. Their first album, A Walk Across The Rooftops, was released is 1984 and was immediately hailed as a masterpiece and a classic. The band had emerged 'fully formed', with a completely distinctive sound, mature songwriting, and immaculate production values. They were going to have to do something spectacularly good with their next release in order just to match the quality of their first. Many people, myself included, while eagerly anticipating their next move, were at the same time braced for the inevitable letdown.
The Blue Nile were fully aware of the difficulties they faced. They went into the studio in 1985 to begin recording the follow-up to A Walk Across The Rooftops, then completed and subsequently trashed the new album a reported five times. They eventually emerged with Hats in 1989. The excitement with which the band's new offering was greeted after such a long silence is a testament to the strength and enduring appeal of the first album. Incredibly though, the new album was even better.
In many ways, Hats is a logical and obvious next step after A Walk Across The Rooftops, but it's only possible to say that after the fact. In places it's as beautifully sparse as its predecessor; it employs the same philosophy regarding most of the 'drum' tracks, which can be characterized as, "It's a drum machine; let's not even try to pretend otherwise"; it features singer-songwriter Paul Buchanen's strong, distinctive melodies and generally laid-back and laconic vocal delivery; and the production is as precise and flawless as before.
But it surpasses the previous album in many ways: in terms of its arrangements, which are more certain and clearly defined; in the beautiful warmth and depth of the vocals; in the loose and relaxed feel that it manages to achieve, which is something rare on albums that are a such long time in the making; and in the indefinable way in which it creates and sustains its own world, with its own internal melodic and harmonic 'physics', something which practically all truly great music achieves. Hats does it effortlessly.
- Over The Hillside
- The Downtown Lights
- Let's Go Out Tonight
- Headlights On The Parade
- From A Late Night Train
- Seven A.M.
- Saturday Night
All songs written by Paul Buchanen
The Blue Nile are :
- Paul Buchanen (vocal, guitar, synth)
- Robert Bell (synth)
- Paul Joseph Moore (piano, synth)