Halcyon Days: A song-by-song rundown of their 'Alkaline Times' album

Sunday 1st February 1998

Rick Johnston, lead singer of Irish rock team HALCYON DAYS talks us through the tracks on their new album


"Please Don't"
When you are Christians in a rock band and you get tracts given out (by people from your own church) while you are playing at a Youth Mission you'd be annoyed, right? We were (just ask S'dance - they were there as well), so we wrote a song about it. "Please Don't" is like Jesus when he stands up and cries "Woe to you Pharisees" who, in the first century, tied people's hands in dogma and piously pronounced them free. A song for those with quashed enthusiasm whether young or old.

"Verbal Danger"
Words are the cheapest currency of love. I can say anything to you, tell you anything just to make you feel better. Mere words, mere sentiment are nothing if I don't speak the truth. Many of us whether on stages or in pulpits are in danger of verbalising things that we dangerously do not live out in practice.

"Rocket Fitter"
A rocket fitter is a man from the Belfast shipyard who fits things together. Normally he should be fitting boats but instead he builds himself a rocket to escape a world he can no longer bare. The metaphor is about wanting to escape not only from a cheesy TV world, the evolutionary "we are just pieces of matter" belief or the "ugly dark cocoon of days" but also from the dirt in my own soul.

"Too Much To Dream"
So many times the purveyors of religion tell us things, which are designed to comfort us yet they turn out to be just tickling our ears. This is a song about the Monday morning reality after the Sunday night hype. So many people are given "too much to dream" sermons - they are told that with God they can be materially prosperous or that they will be healed with just a little more faith. If I was being theological about it all, I would call it "over-realised eschatology" but then I'm only a humble rock musician.

"Inside Out"
When the props are all taken away, if we didn't have a believing family or a church round us, or if our companions changed to those who were not believers what would remain? When the externals' are stripped away I want there to be something solid inside which doesn't depend on how things are going on the outside. Don't dare sell me any hope based on anything less, no cheap assurance that will not stand up to the rigours of life. The style reminds me of Radiohead and I think the band's controlled outpouring of emotion at the end is a truly beautiful thing.

"Come What May"
Basically a like it or not "we'll keep on going" song. A brilliant flash of confidence from one of the band members who we normally laugh at for being more of the cynical variety. Clearly this boy has faith that "Come What May" he'll keep going (it's the quiet ones you've got to watch!).

This is one of our most musically experimental tracks - really heavy, energetic and industrial. It suits the subject matter, which is basically a rage against consumerism and a media, which adheres to the philosophy of the chorus "Tabema ergo sum" (which, being translated, comes out approximately as "I shop therefore I am"). If Hello magazine is our idea of heaven then winning the lottery is a personal revival and the luck of the numbers is the way of salvation. Yes indeed! Let's shout about these ridiculous notions!

"No Need To Run"
If you thought the album's been a bit caustic and harsh so far don't worry, here's a song about grace. So often we try and earn God's favour in spite of our professed belief in justification by faith (alone). This song assets that with God there is "no need to run", no level to reach to attain his favour, we need only humbly accept and enjoy his offer of love.

"Speaks My Name"
Things were beginning to get happy there for a while but this song takes another nosedive into the "alkaline times" in which we live. The song includes the dilemma of the pleasure seeker who "drinks on to stop the thirsting and avoid the bitterness", the atheist who destroys his lover to remove any notion of transcendent things that should not exist according to his world view and the pious who repent and find grace that burns away their proud little egos. It is a song about pain and lives that slip away under the noses of society and the Church. Probably the most "alkaline" song on the whole album.

One of the most mysterious songs we've ever recorded (apart from covering "New York New York" at a party!). The groove is dark, the vocals light, the whole mood is twilight and when the backing vocals come in with "Love rushes over" at the end I can truly say it still sends shivers down my spine!

"You Surround Me"
I think this one is a psalm - it is so similar to the laments of the psalmists at their own condition and waywardness yet whilst affirming their confidence in God's invisible protection around them. My favourite line -"a prayer at the gallows is still enough and will always be...".

A really trippy song, chilled and melodic. At the end of the album it contains our summary of the shadowlands existence this side of eternity, the halflight. The last repeating lyric summarises - "It's a sign of the times, the alkaline times/Looking for love in the miracle rhymes." Music to dream alkaline dreams to... CR

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