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Philip Selway - Familial

The album’s intro, “By Some Miracle,” with its image of “a black dog in the basement,” addresses depression, but it’s more shaped by what Selway calls “taking responsibility for your actions, to have choices in front of you that might have unsavory consequences, despite how strong the draw to them might be to them.” “Falling” raises the specter of “that little depressive cloud that comes over you, that make you misinterpret everything, and how a couple of days later, you realize how over-dramatic that point was, no matter how valid those feelings were at the time.”

There’s a potential link here to “All Eyes on You,” inspired by the stage fright Selway experienced on Radiohead’s first American tour in 1993 following the sudden life-changing success of “Creep.” For anyone seeking personal revelation about the band itself, it’s only there in the closing “The Witching Hour”: “Faces round a fire / Lights across the sky,” refers to the camping trip in the woods that Ed O’Brien organized for his bachelor party. And for anyone seeking musical parallels between that band and Familial, check out “Beyond Reason,” with its scratchy loop and ghostly vocal layers. “If stuff came up that sounded very Radiohead, I’d edit it out, but at the same time, I wouldn’t do so to the detriment of something I felt was genuinely me as much as genuinely Radiohead too. I don’t want to cut off an arm for the sake of it.”

But Radiohead’s real relevance here is the fact they’re family, as your closest friends become. And family matters to Philip—married with three kids, with sisters of his own, and the knowledge that “those I love will carry me home,” according to the album’s parting words. In “The Simple Life,” when he sings “There’s a place we can go / There’s a place where we both can hide,” he’s referring to “finding the mental space and strength you need to find as family, or any significant relationship, with your partner or your bandmates.” Not for nothing is the album called Familial. “I didn’t set out to write a record about families but that’s such a major part of who I am, so it comes through.”

Even so, the record’s working title was Don’t Look Down, named after the penultimate track (at five minutes, easily the album’s longest), which Philip discovered was also the title of Cerys Matthews’ last album. The song speaks for Selway and all those in middle age—but less a mid-life crisis than mid-life clarity. “I’ve made this record at more or less at the mid-point in my life, where in one sense you’ve reached the height of your powers in terms of responsibility and experience, which is a very heady time. If you stop and take it all in, it can become a scary place. So don’t look down, keep going! But you choose to be here too. This is the point where you’re driving the bus.”
Philip Selway - Familial 


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