Star Rating: ★★★★☆
If you know me, you’re probably aware that I wasn’t a big fan of living in the West Midlands.
At 18, I was eager to escape the suburbs of a small northern mining town.
I wasn’t exactly searching for the ‘big lights’ of the city. I was also under no illusion that Birmingham, of all places, would be the place to find such a thing.
However, when I went there for uni, I was overwhelmed with a lot of stress. And, importantly, I didn’t have much money, which made properly exploring Brum a challenge.
This, coupled with the fact my boyfriend lived two hours away, meant I never really warmed to the city.
I made lots of friends and had some great times at uni, for sure. But most of this happened within a small bubble in Selly Oak.
It’s also fucking grey. All of the time.
She ain’t a looker!
However, some of the best memories I have of Brum are going to the gay village (of course).
Nightingales – especially on a Saturday – is unironically brilliant. This and the surrounding bars, pubs and cafes are where I met some of my best friends from the city.
Now I live in Sheffield, I could never imagine moving back. However, these memories of 6 am escapades are the only thing that occasionally tease me in.
Listening to Tom Aspaul’s new album for the first time felt like an injection of nostalgia for this time in my life – a Siren call to the dance floor at 3 am.
It’s a concise, 28 minute ode to the West Midlands in the form of queer disco bangers.
Aspaul left Wolverhampton for London aged 14. Last year, after breaking up with his long-term partner, he ditched his life and moved back.
Black Country Disco narrates the fallout of his relationship, the disorientating feeling of returning home, and the euphoria of moving on to brighter horizons.
There’s nothing groundbreaking here per se. It’s a solid collection of songs in the vein of Years and Years. The melodies are air tight and the production is suitably 80s-infused.
But to see a gay, working class man writing about his small hometown feels quietly revolutionary.
Unlike his more mainstream contemporaries, the album never restrains its queerness. Woven into its fabric are easter egg references to the Spice Girls, for example, and pronouns are never shied away from.
A nine minute short film was released alongside the album. In a nutshell, it’s camp AF – handle bar moustache included.
The unusual element in all of this, I guess, is the setting. In the standout song, W.M, he sings:
“I like those grey skies
I like those neon lights
I’m going out tonight
In the W.M
In the W.M”
The chorus is hardly poetic, but it ignited a pang of sadness in me. In our second national lockdown of 2020, there’s nothing else I’d rather do than dance my gay little heart out to every track in a packed, grimy gay bar in Birmingham – exactly as it was intended.
Black Country Disco’s 10 songs move swiftly from sadness to euphoria. It’s a big, gay love letter to Wolverhampton, complete with references to the M6 and the Birmingham metro. I’ve never heard the West Midlands sound quite like it.