Breezeblocks, the second single from English indie act Alt-J’s debut Mercury Prize-winning album An Awesome Wave, burned a bright and bewitchingly weird streak through the musical zeitgeist when it was released 10 years ago today. Here are five facts you may not know about the still-captivating track.
1. Wild origins
Its lyrics were heavily inspired by Where the Wild Things Are, the 1963 picture book by late American author and illustrator Maurice Sendak (1928 – 2012). Alt-J’s guitarist and lead vocalist Joe Newman said upon the song’s release in 2012: “[It’s] about liking someone who you want so much that you want to hurt yourself and them, as well. We related that idea to Where the Wild Things Are, which we all grew up reading, where in the end the beasts say ‘Oh, please don’t go! We’ll eat you whole! We love you so!,’ that they would threaten cannibalism to have that person. It’s a powerful image.”
2. Ellis’s inspo
The infamously clever clip was conceived and directed by Ellis Bahl, who didn’t know any of the Alt-J bandmembers or team beforehand. So, how’d he get the job? By simply pitching his idea through a commissioning site. “I had been thinking about doing a backwards video,” he said in 2013, “and then when I listened to the track, the first words were, ‘She may contain the urge to run away, so hold her down with soggy clothes and breeze blocks.’ And an image of a woman submerged in a bathtub with a cinderblock on her chest popped into my head.”
3. Cinders on the breeze
‘Breeze block’ is, of course, a synonym for the more commonly-heard (in Australia) term ‘cinderblock’. These building bricks are made from small cinders (hence ‘cinderblock’) mixed with sand and cement. They’re often a top choice for the construction of buildings in hot climates, because their holes allow a breeze through (hence ‘breeze blocks’). The blocks are also heavily associated with violent death; while a cinderblock to the head will definitely mean curtains, they’re more commonly linked to the ‘concrete shoes’ method of body disposal used by the mafia in urban legend, in which a victim is weighed down by cinderblocks or cement before being thrown into a body of water.
4. An English lesson
The song’s lyrics reference two UK-brand medical products. Cetirizine (from the line “Cetirizine, your fever’s gripped me again”) is an allergy and hayfever relief medication, sold under the name Zyrtec in Australia. Germolene (from the line “Germolene, disinfect the scene”) is a topical antiseptic cream which prevents infection.
5. Bronze on the books, gold in our hearts
Breezeblocks hit #3 in Triple J’s hottest 100 of 2012, behind Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s Thrift Shop (#1) and Of Monsters And Men’s Little Talks (#2). Do we even remember how those latter two go? No, no we don’t. All hail 2012’s real MVP and enduring champion, Breezeblocks.