Scattered thoughts on Love by Beatles Band*.

– OK, a lot of this is, or once was, really brilliant pop music. But why does this artefact exist?

– Boring answers: to make $$$$, to trail a remastering programme, to keep Where-Is-Beatles-Brand ‘relevant’ in the 00s. All true – but what else?

– First thought – on hearing the intro w/”Because” – “!!! They want a Beatles Smile!” (with Giles Martin as the Wondermints). Paul McC bears his rivalries a long time, if so.

– But of course Smile has (some kind of) thematic consistency to go with the sonics, even if a lot of it was doubtless forgotten in the 40 years between conception and making it. Where’s the theme in Love? Does there need to be one? I dunno – it feels like a missed opportunity if there ISN’T given how keen this band were on making ambitious philosophical statements (for instance – the expansion of the idea of “love” in their writing, there’s a place to start).

– So instead you get lots of cute segues and mix-ups which don’t give anything any extra emotional heft or make much of it more thrilling or mysterious (these being the two good reasons to do bootlegs; there are many bad ones, including the spot-the-snippet games Love plays).

– A much-touted highlight – the segue from “Mr Kite” into the meltdown section of “I Want You”, OK on first hearing this is really effective but it’s TERRIBLY unsubtle, OMG aren’t circuses kind of spooky right?? – there *is* a menace in “Kite” but its payoff is diffused over the whole Pepper album, not slapped in your face like this.

– And even the darkness in “I Want You” sounds kind of chocolate-boxy in this context.

– Similarly the merging of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Within You Without You” takes two pretty stark statements and prettifies both of them into a one-size-fits-all dose of “spirituality”.

– Which is fine! This is The Beatles’ equivalent of the We Will Rock You musical, after al, only a lot ‘classier’ – a good-time family show which showcases their eternal magnificence. There’s not much room for anything other than Pepperland opulence (and to be fair the remixers do strike a balance between layering on and stripping down, though it’s all a bit cloying). Plenty of space for “Octopus’ Garden” though which is an – entirely appropriate – centerpiece and sounds jolly good for it.

– Anyway this explains the near-total reliance on late-period Beatles, which after all isn’t the stuff most people bought (though it’s a moot point maybe given their megafame ever since). Firstly it gives Martin Sr and Jr more to play around with, secondly there was always a massive decadent streak in the band’s post-touring work and Love is the perfect showcase for it. It’s Martin’s own big legacy-move: remember them as studio artistes, dammit!

– The Beatles are great because they reached out, joined dots, thought through what being the ‘biggest band in the world’ is and what you could do with such a huge and attentive audience. Love is more of the hermetic sealing of the Beatles as a monolith of “greatness” in pop – remixable only with and by their own, unsullied by passing time and fads. Bit of a shame, really.

* (That being the “remix the Beatles” project whereby George Martin remasters and mash-ups a load of the Beatles back catalogue to produce an 80-minute Cirque Du Soleil project.)