Allan Brown - Nileism: The Strange Course of the Blue Nile (4 stars)

Allan Brown - Nileism: The Strange Course of the Blue Nile

Biography of enigmatic Glaswegian soul-pop perfectionists leaves much unresolved


The peculiar bubble which enigmatic Glaswegian soul-pop perfectionists the Blue Nile inhabited during their 26 years together burst circa 2004, leaving the three members bitterly estranged ever since. Even if the famously glacial pace they worked at produced just 33 songs in that time, their music – chiefly the first two LPs A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats – inspired incredible devotion in a particular generation of listeners.

Journalist Allan Brown is one such Nileite, but his biography will appeal to more than just mawkish men of a certain age. It’s a comprehensive and compelling read which sagely lets fans do a lot of the eulogising, while weaving in a fascinating subtext about the Blue Nile’s role in the 1980s cultural awakening of Glasgow, the very bricks and mortar of which vocalist Paul Buchanan romanticised so evocatively. Brown uncovers a curious pathology of stubbornness, shyness and naivety in business matters that left the band managerless for long spells and exposed to a string of doomed record deals. Yet he stops short of attempting to fully answer the burning question of what specifically precipitated deep rifts between members, not least Buchanan and keyboardist PJ Moore.

It’s equally frustrating that the only part of the band’s ‘hive mind’, as Brown calls it, with a voice in the book is Buchanan (via archive interviews). The Blue Nile’s break-up smacks more of an intense love affair gone sour than the simple disbanding of a failed pop group. The very personal grudges and regrets the members hold are left to be silently nurtured or resolved.

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