Some of the world's sunniest popsongs have the darkest of lyrics. It's a lovely contradiction that's unique to pop music. It results in surreal scenes at weddings where hysterical families sing through grinning teeth about being heartbroken almost to the point of suicide. Half-conscious car singalongs about revenge and isolation. Karaoke bar clowns leading smiling choruses about despair and disenchantment. ABBA made a career of it. Sting and the Police were masters of it. Hundreds, thousands more.
Streetlight is that, of a fashion. It's deliberately straightforward; during recording, I described it to John Ellis (who did amazing things with a piano on this and many other tracks) as being like 'primary colours'. All major chords and hooks. I wanted it to be catchy.
But the lyrics are venom.
I also kept changing them up until the final vocal take, which is probably the excuse I'll use when I forget them on stage.
The string riff in this is one of my favourite things on the album. The Up North Session Orchestra did an amazing job making things sound so lush. The day they came into the studio, we ended up being locked out for a couple of hours so bonded over cheap but scaldingly hot coffee, pacing in the frosty air. Streetlight was one of the first tracks we did. I knew how it sounded in my head but after the studio whirred into life, the first take was the first time I'd heard the string parts in full, in the air, for real. Lovely stuff.
I recently found an audio file on my phone called 'bbq strings', which is just me humming this string melody up close to the phone's microphone. Possibly drunk. I have no idea when it's from or why it's called what it is. Maybe I was inspired at a barbecue? Who knows.
The title has 'Broken Love Song' in brackets. It was the working title before I finished the lyrics, and makes sense to me given how amiable it sounds and yet how scathing it actually is. But it's also to annoy my friend Christian, who hates songs with bracketed subtitles.
(I put two on this record).