Beauty, sadness, pain and promise – Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties are back.
Aaron West is a character that feels to be so embellished, with music that is so painfully world-warping, that you don’t know where Aaron West stops and Dan Campbell (you know, the geezer from The Wonder Years) begins.
Deeply troubled, yet frightfully honest – Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties are back with brand new music, coming as their first offering since 2016’s Bittersweet EP. The latest A-side from Aaron West comes ahead of the release of his second LP, titled Routine Maintenance, due on 10 May, which consists of two singles Runnin’ Toward the Light and Just Sign the Papers.
To catch you up…
We know that Diane has left Aaron. We know that the world he knew is falling apart. We know that there is a lot to write songs about. But is there light at the end of the tunnel for this struggling musician as he heads up the ‘worst wedding band ever’?
Runnin’ Toward the Light
The first time I listened to this song, I felt there was a different atmosphere to it. While some Aaron West songs are little more positive than others, Runnin’ Toward the Light is, above all, hopeful. The opening to the video sees Aaron staring into the camera holding up the AW20 gang sign, immediately a give away that the horizon may not be so bleak. Throughout the song, the lyrics are a giveaway – painting Aaron as having come to terms with the world he is rebuilding, understanding that there could be something left for him after all.
Lyrics such as “spray a 20 up on the overpass, a blood pact with the drifters we’ve become” and “we played another highway bar and for the first time they sang along” implies that since we last heard from the band, their affinity for music has allowed them to forge new lives for themselves. The chorus emulates this. Brought together wonderfully by the brass section, the crowning jewel of this song is the benevolence of this chorus and the idea that Aaron and co. truly are surging ‘toward the light’.
The breakdown, for an avid listener of the band, is absolutely golden. We see Aaron exclaiming that the people he has come across are “proud of [him]”. The magic of this is the way that he references characters that have been sewn into his world through the band’s first LP and EP.
“This is for Robert” = The guy who buys the Aaron’s Dad’s Mustang – featured in 67 Cherry Red – which he had to sell to make ends meet.
“and Jesse” = The person who sub-lets Dianne’s apartment, mentioned in Green Like the G Train, Green Like the Sea Foam, that Aaron crosses paths with when he returns to his old dwelling to retrieve a coat. Here he notably sees that the only thing that Diane has kept is THAT oh so infamous couch (as a British man, it doesn’t feel quite right not saying sofa here but I will allow it as I know I am gushing in awe of the creative practices on offer).
“and the Thunderbird staff” = The people who looked after Aaron at the Thunderbird Inn where he stayed once he had left the apartment that he and Diane shared (I know its a lot but keep up).
In short, he is asking all of these people, and some we haven’t even been introduced to yet, to notice that his life is starting to pick up again and the way he does it, through the simple medium of this song, is fucking exceptional.
Now, for you, this might just come across as being a collection of fictional names that you have no relation to – BUT if you are a fan of Aaron West then you know how important this bridge is. The world that has been built is exceptional. Every time I listen to one of his songs, I hear a name and slowly pick together with the story of Aaron West, trying to work out where he is geographically and emotionally. It takes a special musician to build a world so vivid and comprehensive as Dan Campbell has done here with this project, and I can’t wait to see what chapter of Aaron’s life is unfolded with the release of Routine Maintenance.
Just Sign the Papers
The opening of this track immediately feels more self-deprecating than Runnin’ Towards the Light. Opening with Aaron whimpering over a lightly strummed acoustic guitar, there is simple innocence about this song. Presumably about his divorce, this song – on the surface – feels to be a sad ditty about losing what you love, but the more you listen you realise that this is, in fact, Aaron coming to terms with many changing parts in his life. He wants a new beginning.
Lyrics such as “I followed you all night, ’til the rain died, like a long goodbye”, are reminiscent but chapter-defining. There is a definite feel about how this song addresses the topic, especially with the coming-of-age style conclusion that makes you hope that Aaron is okay… this is the end, things will be changing.
There is a swing to this song that gives it a similar feel to some of the tracks found on The Wonder Year’s Greatest Generation which, I’m sure, everyone can get behind. If one thing is for certain, I care for and want to know how Aaron West is doing. The fact that I have to wait for an LP of songs to do this, is a testament to just how powerful this project is.
Pre-order Routine Maintenance now: https://aaronwestandtheroaringtwenties.bandcamp.com/album/routine-maintenance
Book tickets to see Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties this autumn: https://www.aaronwestandtheroaringtwenties.com/