We all run
In the sun
And the sun too
Is an island
We're all islands
In the sea
And the islands
Want to reach
In the sky
All the islands
Are all waiting
On an island
(We're all the same, all on our own islands that reach out forever more)
(Into the darkest depths of eternal space, searching)
(For all the answers to the secrets that we have never learned)
(Wish there were more ways of finding out, there must be other worlds, other islands)
(There must be)
Well, we reach the end of Side A with arguably the definitive track on the album. Haunting vocals, delivered in a fairly dead-pan way which somehow makes them even more poignant. The synths are really given a work-out on this track, probably the most electronic piece on the album. I just live those rasping / buzzing extended synth pads on this track. Quite Numan-esque really. Especially from the 1:30 mark - the synths are quite simply sensational! The track then continues to build with extra layers added.
Again at 2:45 the synths return and it really is a wall of sound now, to which the ending monologue delivered by Tony's brother is a clever contrast.
For me, at this stage, one of the main points of note is that you seldom reach the half way point on an album and realise that every single piece, indeed every single second, is excellent. No "iffy bits". No padding. No esoteric meanderings. You could drop the needle at any point on this side and instantly be hooked.
On to side B!
This is probably my least favourite track on the album, sorry folks. It goes on for too long and is too repetitive towards the end. I would have preferred this track to have remained a b-side. I wonder if there is any difference between the 2 versions, I've not noticed any. The lyrics are quite imaginative and I like the idea of little planets as islands, isolated from each other and unreachable. (Is that what it's about? Is that how Tony felt at the time?
Quite depressing, really.
On Islands......one of my favorites.. reminds me of Brian Eno's Another Green World for some reason (my favorite album of all time).
Bringing side A to a close (you remember vinyl?) and sounding, initially at least, somewhat different and more laid back to the previous tracks, is "On Islands".
I've always tended to think of this song as a kind of more traditional, almost late-1960s sounding song. Maybe it's the prominent acoustic guitar and the piano, or the drums (which make it sound a touch Beatles). It's a track which could easily be performed without the electronics though, and in a way it could probably be the closest NM did to 'unplugged!' I wonder if NM ever performed a live acoustic version of this...
But all the lovely electronic touches are still here of course, and just six seconds in we get to hear what must be the first incarnation of the sonar-like ping sound that Tony would build upon later into one of his key trademark sounds. The track builds nicely and has a full sound. At around 2:06 the piano becomes prominent, along with a delightful (very) buzzy synth.
The lyrics are about alienation - a theme running through the album.
We are all on our own Islands... And of course marking out this track from all the rest is young Lee's spoken bit. I imagine not everyone likes this bit - could his profound words come across as a little too deep for someone who's voice hasn't yet broken..? But to me it definitely adds a certain charm and uniqueness to the track.
Even to this day I neither find it twee or irritating, as might so easily have been the case on such an otherwise good track, so to me that proves it works.
Whilst I never thought of "On Islands" as hit material, it was apparently released as a single in France, where it reached number 1 in the charts. Whereas everywhere else it was a B-Side track. It was also covered by Camouflage, though quite why I'm not sure as I don't think it is the best track to cover from the album. I think the almost anthemic qualities of the track were its appeal, plus it would be the easiest song to cover. (In my opinion Camouflage's version didn't add anything, so wasn't worth doing, and I much prefer this original version).