Big Country: “Look Away” (1986)

Another epic single with an equally epic video that somehow didn’t score big in this country but did well in the UK.

Kronomyth 2.99: All love is theft.

Look, I have to level with you: most Big Country songs tend to sound the same to me. But look away from the omnipresent e-bow effects and you’ll hear a consistent greatness at work that few of their contemporaries could match. U2 usually comes to mind, Echo & The Bunnymen after. Maybe there’s not a great deal that separates a “Look Away” or “Restless Natives” from their previous body of work, but that both are great songs is clear after a couple of listens.

“Look Away” is another anthem for doomed romantics, with Bruce Watson and Tony Butler doing their darnedest to mix things up through their superlative musicianship. Maybe they sensed that same sameness and took matters into their own hands, I don’t know. It was accompanied by a beautifully filmed music video that should have made MTV’s top 100 music videos of 1986 (yes, there is such a list). The video’s theme seems to borrow from Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” as a man ready to be executed escapes at the final moment. Or does he? No, he doesn’t, he winds up in the same crappy situation he started in, the dupe of his own fantasy, in a literary device I like to call “every damn morning of my life.”

The non-album flip side, “Restless Natives,” is no mere afterthought, but part of the band’s stirring contribution to the film of the same name. It begins with a bit of movie dialogue, then launches into another anthemic wonder. I really need to come up with a synonym for anthemic. Sweeping? Grandiose? Flaggy? As B sides go, this is a treasure; in fact, when the labels decided to compile Big Country’s B sides and rarities, they called it Restless Natives. I would have called it The Flaggy B-Boys’ Golden Bottoms, but we’ve already established how bad I am at naming things (ahem, Progrography).

Note: The 12-inch single featured a remix of “Look Away” that is pretty weird. Not good, just weird. Most extended remixes are just a bad idea. Actually, most ideas from the 1980s were a bad idea. The 12-inch B side features the “long” version of “Restless Natives,” which is a broader swatch (and, thus, not a swatch at all) of the movie’s soundtrack music and dialogue.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. Look Away (Stuart Adamson) (4:24)
B1. Restless Natives (Stuart Adamson) (4:00)

Double 7-inch single bonus tracks
C1. Margos Theme (Stuart Adamson)
D1. Highland Scenery (Stuart Adamson)

Original 12-inch single version
A1. Look Away (outlaw mix) (Stuart Adamson) (6:53)
B1. Restless Natives The Soundtrack (Part 1) (Stuart Adamson) (16:40)

The Players

Stuart Adamson, Mark Brzezicki, Tony Butler, Bruce Watson. Produced by Robin Millar (a); Geoff Emerick, Stuart Adamson and Rick Stevenson (b).

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch, double 7-inch and 12-inch single in April 1986 in the UK and Ireland Mercury, BIGC/BIGCD/BIGCX 1), the US, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands (Mercury, 884 645-7/1), Japan (Mercury, 7PP-205) and South Africa (Mercury, TOS-1576) with picture sleeve; reached #7 on the UK charts.

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