Seven months before they recorded Twelve for Give Me a Wall (I just bought that this Thursday 'cos I rock), “spazz-rock heroes” ¡Forward, Russia! recorded another, unreleased, version at a place called Ghost Town in Leeds. They said so.
The most distinct difference (if there's anything distinct about a ¡Forward, Russia! track) is the vocal on “your conscience is low” at the end of each chorus. (Well, it's only a chorus to the extent that there even are any in a ¡Forward, Russia! track.) In the Sahara Sound version (the one on the single and album), Tom Woodhead sings it, using a grand total of two notes for the word “low”. By contrast, in the Ghost Town version it's a single, drawn-out, unmelodious, much-less-reassuring gasp/yelp. The album version sounds more like “your conscience is low... but y'know what? I've come to terms with that, and it's OK with me”; but this way is more uncomfortable, suggests urgency and some sort of crisis and leaves the song hanging more at the end. It makes me want to react rather than just sit there satisfied that everything's gonna be fine.
From the start the Ghost Town version is more chaotic and less tidy; it seems less premeditated. The introductory guitar lick is distorted – perhaps even a little bit jangly – and it doesn't stick with surgical precision to a single note at a time.
I've repeatedly compared ¡Forward, Russia! to Maxïmo Park (well, I've compared lots of things to both of them at the same time, but that's pretty much the same thing) and the comparison is particularly apt for the Ghost Town version. Like The Russia's, Maxïmo Park's songs tend to have a lot of distinct sections, and the song flits between them in different orders throughout. Often in the transition between sections, the music comes to a halt for a second, there's a single drum tap or beat in the middle, and then the bass resumes and the song sets off again, usually beginning a little more subdued than before and then building up again.
Twelve does this after the choruses (of which there are only about two, depending on how you count), and the halt is more distinct in the Ghost Town version. There are fewer layers of noise going on and so less to stop, plus the word “low” doesn't carry on for quite as long so the guitar is bashed into you a few more times before stopping. It sounds particularly Maxïmo Parky the second time (before “Ninety nine...”), when there's only bass and no lead guitar upon resumption. Also like The Park, Twelve crams craploads of music into the time interval it takes Sigur Rós to complete a single note.
And just when you think the song's finished – short of two minutes in – it goes back to “But he couldn't find another way” and skips through another quick verse before finally relenting.
The album version's pretty good as well. If you download one song this week, make it ¡12!. Stay tuned.