“All or Nothing” by Aqualung

33. Song Nos. 197 and 198: “All or Nothing,” Aqualung
B-Sides Volume 1, 2004
; Words and Music, 2008

Aqualung is another present from the college radio station wrapped up in a chance find of extra CDs for keepsies. Matt Hales, the impossibly adorable British gentlemen behind Aqualung, put out his debut album (the dreamy, haunting and utterly lovely Strange and Beautiful) under the musical moniker just in time for it to be covered in the magic of spring semester; the ensuing concerts that became another musical tradition with my best friend and anxiously awaiting every subsequent album only solidified my pure and constant love.

As with any band I’m wild about, the bounty of a B-side album is such a wonderful treat. And Hales treated fans to lots of those, especially if you were diligent about snatching up exports and rarities. But, because this is the darkest timeline, that same diligence is not yielding the rewards of finding this song extant ANYWHERE on the internet. Settling for a snippet is better than nothing, I suppose, but this song deserves to be enjoyed in its full glory.

This B-side-cum-bonus-track is a jazzy, effortlessly cool syncopated stroll through four minutes and 41 seconds of slow-building perfection infused with the Aqualung signatures that make Hales one of my longest-running favorites. I’m a sucker for a horn section and retro flourishes, and “All or Nothing” has it all in spades. Plus, it always makes me feel cooler than I really am, and I appreciate that.

I just love this song, and I am always so happy to revisit the generally springtime feeling of one of my favorite bands. I definitely can’t recommend Aqualung enough, and it’s definitely worth wading through pages of scuba gear, wild-eyed Jethro Tull album art, and Anchorman memes to find a copy of either album to enjoy this little slice of musical heaven, since it only seems to exist on relics from the era when we still bought CDs more than digital tunes.

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