The Bluetones experienced a brief fling with the UK charts in the late 90s and early 2000s. Getintothis’ Emilie Clark compiles a top 10 list of their best tracks, old and new.
Being the daughter of a couple who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I’ve been exposed to bands such as The Bluetones my whole life and grown to love them myself.
The Bluetones had the majority of their success in the Britpop era of the 1990s, reaching number 2 in the charts with Slight Return; but were perhaps slightly overlooked due to the prominence of other successful bands around at the time.
Their 1996 debut album Expecting To Fly is possibly one of the greatest debuts ever, and really pays heed to the phrase “all killer no filler”. The album entered the charts at number one and produced several more successful, chart-hitting singles.
Q magazine wrote of the album, “Perhaps the most accomplished rock debut album since The Stone Roses in 1989, Expecting to Fly avoids the usual primitive drive of first recordings, in favour of technical brilliance and adventurous songwriting… a classic rock album.”
The band went on to release five more albums, touring frequently across the UK and other countries, while also making several festival appearances; with their most recent work being A New Athens in 2010. Following the release of this, the band played a farewell tour and disbanded to pursue other avenues.
Lead singer Mark Morriss focussed on his solo career, through which he has released four albums – as well as sound-tracking close friend David Walliams’ audiobooks; bassist and younger brother Scott Morriss moved to Tokyo and concentrated on his illustration and animation work; drummer Eds Chesters had previously trained as an osteopath and went back to this; while lead guitarist Adam Devlin formed new band Thee Cee Cees with singer-songwriter Chris T-T.
After a 4 year hiatus, The Bluetones returned in 2015 for a 20th anniversary reunion tour, and although they have not released any new music – they have been present and frequently touring the UK for the past 5 years.
It is said that the group had some plans to release new music, but the recent coronavirus outbreak has put paid to any imminent releases.
There had also been plans for the band to embark on a co-headline tour with recently-reformed 90s rock group Sleeper, which has now been rescheduled to February 2021.
It is easy to think you have your favourites set in stone, but going back through and listening to these songs, I found I was mistaken. There are so many great songs in the Morriss brothers’ back catalogue, that choosing a top 10 from their six studio albums, countless B-sides, six compilations and a live album, was a tough feat. There’s many songs I wanted to include, so forgive me if I’ve missed your favourite.
Without further ado, here it is:
- Bluetonic from Expecting To Fly (1996)
Kicking off the top 10 is perhaps quite an obvious choice, instantly recognisable as The Bluetones within the first few seconds.
It contains the notable lyric, ‘When I am sad and weary, and all my hope is gone, I walk around my house and think of you with nothing on’, which was adapted from the poem Celia Celia by Adrian Mitchell.
- Firefly from A New Athens (2010)
A New Athens, despite being released 10 years ago in 2010, is The Bluetones’ most recent release. Whilst not gaining as much attention and popularity as certain other albums from their past, it features some really great tracks, such as singles Carry Me Home and Golden Soul.
However, a personal favourite is Firefly. The song is cheerful and summery, and provides very easy listening with some beautiful harmonies.
For an unknown reason, A New Athens is no longer up on Spotify along with the rest of their discography, but most tracks remain on Youtube.
- If… from Return To The Last Chance Saloon (1998)
If… is an obvious fan favourite, due to its commanding sing-along chorus and outro. It is frequently used as the song to close live shows, with the refrain often lasting longer than its recorded counterpart; the crowd singing it back at the empty stage long after the band has left it.
Both the title and font on the single cover are a nod to 1968 film If….
- Slight Return from Expecting To Fly (1996)
With an impressive 11 million listens on Spotify, Slight Return is by far the band’s most well-known song.
It’s the one. The one that the band don’t particularly want to play, and that the majority of the audience don’t particularly want to hear, but there’s a reason Slight Return reached number 2 in the charts (held back from the top spot by Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman). It’s a bloody good song and well and truly deserves a place on this list.
The verses of the song are caught between picking up the pace and slowing back down, teasing the listener before launching into the lively chorus at the 30-second mark.
The catchy chorus is instantly memorable and feel-good, “You don’t have to have the solution you’ve got to understand the problem, and don’t go hoping for a miracle…”, and provides some actually very sound advice.
- Never Going Nowhere from Luxembourg (2003)
Luxembourg was The Bluetones’ fourth studio album, which was met with many mixed reviews. After the huge success of Expecting To Fly, and then the slightly-less-successful-but-still-successful Science & Nature and Return To The Last Chance Saloon – people were expecting big things, and this album didn’t quite match them.
Despite just sneaking into the top 40 in the singles chart (peaking at number 39), we believe Never Going Nowhere is the stand-out track on an otherwise average album.
Never Going Nowhere is another sad song veiled by a cheery tune, about the nostalgia of a failing relationship.
“Nothing is different, but something has changed” is a notion that many people are likely to relate to.
There’s a running theme across the album, the title of it was taken from their song You’re No Fun Anymore, about an S&M relationship which has lost its spark.
- The Bluetones Big Score from The Singles (2002)
The Bluetones Big Score was written about 1996 Wes Anderson crime-comedy film Bottle Rocket.
The lyrics throughout detail the characters’ adventures on the run from the police after committing a robbery (“On the run from Johnny Law”)
It features a blues-esque beat and the typical Bluetones catchiness we come to expect from them.
- 4-Day Weekend from Return To The Last Chance Saloon (1998)
4-Day Weekend was the fourth and final single to be released from Return To The Last Chance Saloon.
The single features a slightly heavier, more rock-based sound – something a little different to the band’s usual light and breezy tracks.
3. Are You Blue Or Are You Blind? from The Singles (2002)
Are You Blue Or Are You Blind? was released as a standalone single in 1995, and also featured on the album A Rough Outline: The Singles & B-Sides 95 – 03.
It’s hard to see how a song filled with so much energy and liveliness didn’t make it onto a studio album.
- Surrendered from The Bluetones (2006)
The sweet-seeming, up-tempo tune disguises a song with a slightly darker underlying message – about a maddening relationship, about being toyed with and wound up – but succumbing and giving the other person your heart.
“Surrender all part to you, to play as you choose. Surrender my heart to you, to break and abuse.”
- Tiger Lily from Science & Nature (2000)
Science & Nature is yet another album full of great tracks, one of this writer’s all-time favourites. It’s hard to choose a favourite song when so many resonate and provide good memories – but Tiger Lily remains a timeless classic, providing as much
Every element of this song just works. The combination of the low, mumbled bassline; the soft, lilting vocal harmonies; the flowery lyrics along with the hushed drumbeat creates a delicate and beautiful track that stands out on an album which is full of them.