Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wherefore Dinas Powys?

Dinas Powys cover art

Dinas Powys is an album - the new album, in fact - by Andrew Paul Regan, a local musician who used to go by the name of Pagan Wanderer Lu. I bought this album for two reasons:

1) I heard APR play Time Crisis, 1982 in a session for The Waiting Room (it's a radio show, click the link and check it out) and really liked it. I leapt over to his bandcamp page but found that the song didn't appear on either of his albums to date; when I heard, some months later, that he had released a new'un, I checked the tracklist and, sure enough, there it was.

2) It's named after a station that I pass through almost every day en route to work. I'm not sure why that endears it to me - after all, that big Dinas Powys sign on the cover just reminds me that I'll be in the office soon - and to be honest, I probably would have bought the album with Time Crisis, 1982 on it regardless of the title. Still, Dinas Powys station is a tiny bit of my own life, and so I'm all the more interested in the CD that uses its name and likeness.

(Also, it shared a launch show with Quiet Marauder's MEN, so it's an album in good company. This also means that today's blog post dovetails quite neatly with Friday's.)

Now, Andrew Paul Regan has a blog of his own, and he's been doing a track-by-track explanation of this entire album. He goes into some detail about both the meaning and the recording of each song, so if you get a glow from titbits like this...

"I'd like Stephen Fry to hear the song someday and allow himself a wry chuckle."

...or this...

"Every sound on this track - with the exception of the shakey egg part - is an acoustic guitar."

...then it's well worth a read. One thing he doesn't really explain, though, is the choice of title - why Dinas Powys? Okay, so it's the place where he lives, but that's quite a lazy way to christen the fruits of your creative effort, and the author of those blog posts doesn't strike me as a lazy man. He strikes me as someone who puts a lot of thought into things like album titles and song names:

 "I was so, so close to just calling the record 'A Classic Album, Loved By Millions' - but in the end it just didn't quite fit. But as a title of an opening track I'd like to think it suggests ambition."

So I ask again: why Dinas Powys? Regan was kind enough to give us a few clues in the blog posts, even if he didn't tell us the answer outright. He mentions that 'Dinas Powys' was his working title for the song that became Axioms, but since the song had no lyrics at that point, it's probably not worth analysing every line for hidden references to the village near Barry. Besides, APR apparently didn't even live in Dinas Powys back then, so goodness knows why he used it as a potential song name. Perhaps he just liked the Welshy cadence of it.

What else can we find, then? Under the Wallpaper (Part 3) contains this beautifully cathartic moment:

"And the girl says to the boy, 'What fucking destination? We're sleeping in train stations and we haven't got tickets to anywhere!'"

Up until that part, the song is about a couple going on a big adventure across Europe and all but forgetting their old lives. However, the line above suggests that the whole thing might just be a big fantasy dreamed up by 'the boy' when, in reality, they're kipping on a bench at Dinas Powys station and their journey is struggling to leave square one. It's a metaphor for their on-the-skids relationship, maybe.

(Why Dinas Powys station? Well, it's on the cover, isn't it?)

Oh, and then there's Light Pollution II, which centres around the line 'you should never leave the village you were born in'. One of the big themes of Dinas Powys - and I'm no longer quoting from APR's blogs, so this may not be the most accurate observation - is the struggle between A) going off and doing loads of cool stuff and living a totally awesome life, and B) playing it safe, staying at home, and not really making much of your time here. Observe the following lyrics, culled from throughout the album:

"Whack every mole, keep yourself busy. Never say no until you end up multi-tasking yourself into an early grave. Oh, but think of all the time you'll have saved!"
- Time Crisis, 1982

"We move closer to death, we do our best with what's left, start working on your axioms."
- Axioms

"Nothing to tie us both down, except temptation to pick up the phone and tell people we're still here."
- Under the Wallpaper (Part 3)

Option A seems like the obviously better one, but no matter how much you want to grab life by the throat and do things, there'll always be Option B, tugging at your sleeve and making you stay. It's all well and good to go and make an adventure of life, but will you really be happier for "multi-tasking yourself into an early grave"? The 'stay at home' option isn't very exciting, but it's appealing in its own way, and I think that Dinas Powys could be a representation of this: a small Welsh village where nothing much happens but where life is generally okay. Option B.

So there's a guess, anyway. If you're reading this, Mr Regan, feel free to let me know for sure.

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