A swirly shot of neo-psychedelia, “Leave Your Body Behind You” drives an eddy of trebly noise across an assertive, “While My Guitar Gentle Weeps” bass line. And lives to tell about it. Hawley’s vocals happen somewhere in the middle of all this; he’s present more as a rich baritoney buzz than as a discernible storyteller. Which is no doubt purposeful, given the song’s much-repeated title lyric. He sounds halfway there. (To leaving his body behind, that is. I sometimes can’t tell if I’m being too subtle for my own good.)
So I will leave subtle behind now and say that “Leave Your Body Behind You” is a great song—inexplicably moving, with a sturdy, satisfying momentum that is felt in the stomach. I was won over in particular, on first listen, by the melisma that Hawley employs on the word “leave” at the beginning of the chorus (first heard beginning at 0:40). To begin, he holds the note while the familiar bass line guides us through those persuasive chord changes. But then, staying on the one word/syllable, he slips in an elegant twist that resembles nothing so much as an artfully deflected pass setting up a perfect strike on goal (and perhaps you can tell I’ve been watching a bit too much of Euro 2012). Where he ends up at 0:43 is wondrous and lovely even in the midst of the general psychedelic churn. This moment seems to me to be the song’s wily fulcrum, upon which its multi-faceted greatness rests and/or depends. As befitting the psychedelic soundscape, we get a slow, spacey break in the middle, during which the chorus is turned into a ghostly chant. Lots of fun follows, including a certain amount of freak-out instrumental goodness, and a bit more chanting to boot.
“Leave Your Body Behind You” is from Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Hawley’s seventh studio album, which was released on Mute Records in the UK last month, and then digitally in the US this month. Thanks again to Largehearted Boy for the lead. MP3 via Indie Rock Cafe. Oh, and while it is awesome with all its expansive, psychedelic instrumentals intact, the song functions nicely in hit-single mode too, without sacrificing its spacey middle break, as you can see from the version performed on Later…with Jools Holland last month, below.