Neil Halstead’s song “Driving With Bert” is my favourite track on his Sleeping on Roads album released in 2002, with a sort of Nick Drake meets Ennio Morricone spaghetti western vibe to it.
Neil Halstead has been the prolific songwriter and frontman for shoegaze heroes Slowdive, and is currently fulfilling the same role with Mojave 3. As frontman, his solo album was somewhat of an unexpected move for many. Yet, it seems that Mojave 3 is a democracy, so maybe a solo record shouldn’t have been unexpected. Part of what drove the melancholy mood on the record was a break-up, a period of being in between places to stay, and a move, all being very tumultuous events in anyone’s life. To my ears, Halstead was gripped with a chronic case of Bryter Layter , since the same kind of gentle bittersweetness tends to hold the album together in terms of its atmosphere and emotional landscape.
Lyrically as well as musically, this is an autumnally-hued reflection on the efforts it takes to reach for happiness, and mismatching needs and solutions (‘love is for your pain/’drugs for when you’re lonely…’). In this tune, the narrator knows that the hope for such happiness is hanging by the thread of pure circumstance (‘So fine for a while/Soon I know you’ll have to leave again’). Yet in some ways, it’s a pretty life-affirming song, despite of how it could also be viewed as a study in transience – “Laughter in the morning/your time for love, your time for life”. In some ways, this is a celebration of the moment, if not for the future.
I wish I could find a full-length version of this tune somewhere on the Interwebby-thing, but otherwise you can preview a clip and download ‘Driving With Bert’ by Neil Halstead on eMusic, along with some of the other tracks from the album.
I always assumed that the Bert in question is Bert Janch, the British folk guitar pioneer. Here’s an interview with Neil Halstead, who addresses that assumption among others. For instance, he also denies the Nick Drake influence. You be the judge when you hear the tune.
Also, check out the Neil Halstead MySpace page . Here, you’ll be allowed to preview a few tracks from the Sleeping on Roads album in full, although not this one specifically (to date at least).
[UPDATE: August 26, 2016: You can listen to this song, which I still absolutely love, right here! Also, for more on Neil Halstead, consult neilhalstead.com]