This month I’d thought of writing (again) about the trial of the Catalan political prisoners, but as this has now been reduced to an endless chorus of policemen whose pre-prepared statements about the supposed violence of Catalan demonstrators and voters drone on without the judge allowing even one of the 700 videos that disprove said statements to be shown, I decided to give the whole thing a miss; then I thought of writing (again) about Brexit, but during a recent visit to England the many conversations I had with just about everyone I met showed me that people in England are thoroughly confused (and frustrated) about this subject; and if they can’t describe what’s going on, who am I, an out-of-touch émigré, to broach the topic? So for once, I’ll use this column to do something apolitically positive, by writing about Will Varley, an English singer-songwriter who I have so far unsuccessfully tried to bring to Barcelona. Who? I pretend to hear you ask. And that’s just the problem: even in England, despite rave reviews, the support of well-known fellow artists, a stunning live concert at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire released last year, and numerous US and EU shows, not very many people seem to have heard him or even of him. Yet those I know to whom I’ve subjected his songs, Catalans included, like them so much they often memorise the lyrics.
Said lyrics are forged out of a combination of poetics, politics, irony and an awareness of mortality that ends up being both entertaining, intelligent and empathetic to the point where you feel you that every song is about you (no wonder the audience at the recorded Shepherd’s Bush concert knew all the words to all the songs). ’King For a King’, for example, which has become an anthem for his fans, describes the life of a man from birth, through school and fatherhood to the loss of his dreams and the death of his best friend (’You bury him, it’s raining, you stand by your wife/You say “What have I done with my life?”/Just a name in a family tree, nothing to history...’). In ’The Man Who Fell To Earth’, Varley uses the true story of an immigrant who tried to get into Britain by clutching onto an aeroplane’s landing gear and eventually falling off over London, to convey a sense of the unreality of the world today: ’This simulation I’m living in makes no sense to me/I’m still dreaming of the man who fell to earth’. And in a lyrical tour de force, ’Weddings And Wars’, the entire history of humanity is compressed into four and a half minutes: ’Birth, death, weddings and wars/That’s all we’re good for/Singing and dancing and looking at the sky, saying/Why are we here, what happens when we die?’ If any concert promoter in Catalonia happens to be reading this, please - please! - let’s get this exceptional singer (a kind of cross between Roger Mas and Cesk Freixas) over here as soon as possible. After all, life is short. Or, as Varley puts it: ’Well, at least we can laugh , at least we can smile/We all just drop in for a while/Yes, we all just drop in for a while...’