Not always brighter than sunshine 

Be careful what youwish for, goes the old adage. The wisdom isn’t lost on scholarly tunesmith Matt Hales, who stumbled upon the Pandora’s box of stardom with his hit 2005 debut disc as Aqualung, the ethereal "Strange and Beautiful."

With the album’s mega-hit "Brighter Than Sunshine," Hales (who plays the Fillmore on Thursday) had become a fixture on Triple-A radio, film soundtracks ("Wicker Park," "A Lot Like Love"), and TV ("The O.C.," "Scrubs," "One Tree Hill" and "Grey’s Anatomy").

Fame hit so hard and fast, in fact, that the Brit has spent an entire follow-up record, "Memory Man" on Columbia, trying to make sense of it all. It isn’t hard to spot the theme wafting through new tracks "Cinderella," "Broken Bones," "Pressure Suit" and "Something to Believe In" — soar too high and your Icarus wings might melt.

"And there’s an aspect of that with any very clearly imagined fantasy or dream that you live your whole life hoping for," sighs the bespectacled Hales, who’d almost given up on rockdom when his random melody "Strange and Beautiful (I’ll Put A Spell On You)" was picked for an 2002 UK Volkswagen campaign.

"Like in my case, being a musician and being able to release records and have people sing along all around the world. So there are several instances of this on the album, articulating my sense that, with my good fortune, there must be some price to be paid. And there has been already. Touring came at a great cost for me, in missing my son’s first year growing up."

Luckily, Aqualung is a family operation. Hales co-writes with his wife, actress Kim Oliver. His brother Ben also composes and plays bass and guitar on the albums. For the bandleader, however, things reached a surreal fever pitch in his native London one summer day in 2005.

"It was two weeks after the bombing, and there was a thwarted attempt to do a second wave of bombing," he says. "I was in the city with my wife and son Kofi when all hellbroke loose, and it was very fightening indeed — we were running across a bridge, trying to get out of town, and someone ran up to me and grabbed my arm. I presumed it was someone in a state of panic, but it was someone saying ‘Oh my gosh! I love your music and I’m here on holiday from Chicago! Would you mind taking a picture with me?’

"My wife was speechless, but I said ‘Well, yes, I mind. I’m sort of vaguely fleeing for my life at the moment!’"

Now, Hales admits, he sees the music business as same as a shop — "the more goodies you pull off the shelves, the more it costs to refill."

"It’s also just logic," he says. "If it feels like you can’t always have it your own way, it’s because no one really does."

Aqualung

Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $18.50

Contact: (415) 346-6000 or www.ticketmaster.com

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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