Alternative

'Trigger cut' Pavement (Slanted and Enchanted, Matador, 1992)

[Verse 1]
Lies and betrayals
Fruit-covered nails
Electricity and lust
Won't break the door
I've got a heavy coat
It's filled with rocks and sand
And if I lose it

[Chorus]
I'll be coming back today (I've got a message for you)
I'll be coming back today (I keep it in my hand)
You know I'm coming back one day (I've got a system for two)
And I'll be coming back today

[Verse 2]
Ex-magician
That still knows the tricks
Tricks are everything to me
Until it's free
I've got a trigger cut
And I can't pull it back
But if I learn how

[Chorus]
I'll be coming back today (I've got a message for you)
You know I'm coming back today (I keep it in my hand)
You will look at me and say (I've got a system for two)
That you just wish I went away

[Bridge]
Sha-la-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh

[Verse 3]
I learned the truth
The truth of the words
Truth I made for you
Because it's just as good
And if I spit it out
Before I chew the ring
I'll rearrange it

[Chorus]
'Til it looks just like today (I've got a message for you)
And I'll be comin' back my way (I keep it in my hand)
Then you will look at me and say (I've got a system for two)
That you just wish I went away
Today

‘Why are we in love’ Furniture (When the boom was on, Premonition Records, 1983) & ‘Shadows from nowhere’ Blue Gas, 12” (1983) Theme*

This song captures perfectly a style that at one point typified white/male/English alternative rock musicians (and counterparts in the former colonies) - the finest example is arguably here (his skin’s pallor the same colour as the swinging light) that is, the quality of being earnest.

‘The 80s’ today is shorthand for a certain look/clothes style and dominates in a lot of pop-ironic music. Nothing wrong with this, even if such irony appears to go against this quality of being hyper sincere and unaware of your effect as mentioned above; the song encapsulates this style to me (even if it was a big part of the 80s sound, across genres). Being self-aware, as any disco-diva-lover knows, is a wonderful thing in-and-of-itself, but it’s a real stretch to aesthetically and conceptually play the innocent with an 80s-inflected musical naivete, while your image is transmitted via social media, or when talking endlessly, endlessly … endlessly.

Nostalgia for a period before you were alive, or just born interests me and is something I relate to, focussing in as I tend to on the 50s/the 70s, but it is an affectation on some level, a performance (even if only internal). I should add that I’m not comparing one era with another to the detriment of the present one etc. I find that kind of backward-looking stance supremely boring and have nothing invested in this, I wasn’t buying albums in this period, or seeing shows. And yes, here is one contemporary act that manages to do both: pilfer the style, while sounding unmasked, heartfelt while doing so.

To return to the aptly strange-named English group ‘Furniture’ - and that instance where he sings out, with an apparent loss of self-control, how they ‘sleepwalk back to each other’s arms’ just before the outburst that is just as quickly resolved. Musically this piece is special for the way the bass is so dense it almost overwhelms all the other elements, the swirling sound of the an instrument that sounds like a clarinet and the pock-marked percussion. And yet this effect seems to depend on how you hear the music; it lessened when I listened to the song with headphones, not via speakers. Here is some information about the group, some of whom went on to form Transglobal Underground. This song is pretty beautiful as well, ‘I miss you’ for the same sorts of reasons … 

Listen out for the minor explosion effect throughout this song by Blue Gas (a ‘one-off Italian electronic studio-project from Celso Valli’), a 12-inch from the same year, even if the effect sounds pretty standard here, I mean most pop commercial songs included these little blasts for emphasis.

Theme: *sudden explosions in music, 1983

Alternate versions: ‘Oh my lover’ PJ Harvey (Peel Session, 1991 & Dry, Too Pure, 1992) plus Nina Simone

To begin with the essential sweetness of this demo version …

Underneath one of the videos posted online someone had written how PJ Harvey had recorded this demo as a teenager to get her first record deal; she sounds so young here, her voice is noticeably different, lacking the magisterial nature of the final recorded version. What’s interesting is the way this youthful voice dilutes the ‘female masochistic-schtick’ critique that could be levelled at the lyrics, as what comes through is the giddy enthusiasm, the excitement, spinning in a lovely exuberance (that total devotion thing fed to women via a lifetime of fairy-tales of all kinds), it’s got total bounce.

Love the way she doubles her voice at the end, it’s so impressive on every level: song-writing, performance, creative vision. As for the recorded version that came out on 1992 debut:

From that opening moment, the intensity of it: this is just one of those extraordinary songs. Listen to that distorted bass/guitar and the unexpected phrasing of the drums. It is archetypal – a folk song transposed to the modern era, timeless. It reminds me of this similarly magical live 1969 performance by Nina Simone of ‘Black is the color of my true love’s hair’ for the same seriousness of intent, declaration: the strength of the woman’s voice.

Here’s the Peel Sessions version from 1991, which sounds almost the same as the recorded version, which further demonstrates the level of Harvey’s musicianship (she was born in 1969, so only was only 22-years-old or so at the time of recording). Check out this interesting video with Harvey speaking about her creative, song writing process put up in 2011.    

Coda:

Related article: PJ Harvey 'Silence' (White Chalk, Island Records 2007) published 27th February 2016

I have written a lot on Nina Simone on this site, go here to find all the references.   

'Cursed Sleep,' Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (The Letting Go, Drag City, 2006)

I slept sweetly unpretending
That the night was always ending
She breathed lightly right next to me
And I dreamed of her inside of me

And in my dream she sang so sweetly
A melody I hope to sing
So enslaved by her sweet wonder
It cut my legs and fingered hunger

She sang my name and so engulfed

I cried and felt my legs fail
In her arms I trembled electric
Oh and she let me and she held me

Then waking she was older still
And holds my love against its will
In spell cast with her palms extended
Cursed love is never ending

Cursed eyes are never closing
Cursed arm are never closing
Cursed children never rising
And cursed me never despising

Oh I am loving always holding
While she sleeps her song enfolding
Epic song it tells of how
She and I are living now

Dawn: cursed love
Dawn: cursed love

‘Real cool time’ Half Japanese/Don Fleming – single (Split, 1989) plus Laughing Clowns, The Stooges

Never thought I’d be writing this about Jad Fair, but with this cover of The Stooges classic (no, this word is not over-used in relation to the spirit of Detroit, even their messiest/sloppiest/non-conscious moments were touched by greatness and this was maintained despite the lack of recognition, drug-induced conditions) he is switching it on, expressing some definite lustiness. 

I like this cover for many reasons: it reminds me of Laughing Clowns 

a sound/atmosphere that is inbuilt somehow, etched into my being, DNA-mapped even though I wasn’t going to see the Laughing Clowns shows, obviously. I think it’s something about the keeping it loose spirit and the warm, percussive sound – jazzy in the nicest, the most sinister-acting way. 

Yeah we danced around the golden calf
And we had a very sharp knife
And we never did anything by halves
We had a strong philosophy of life
And everything that flies is not a bird

Yeah we give it such a friendly reception
Disarm it and disembowel it with a feather
Hope for the best nothing’s too good
For the lords of the plague
When everything that flies is not a bird

You’re a part of my world here
You’re the air that I breathe in
You’re a part of my world here
The water I urinate in

And the wind and sea get up on their hind legs and walk across the land

I have to cut off the electricity to turn off the light
We had a strong philosophy on light
And everything that flies is not a bird
Is not a bird

“And now, introducing the wonderful Ed Kuepper ...” 

This brings me to the key reason for liking this track the drums, how beautiful is this performance, reminding me of the best loose-wristed, keeping it fluid and so solid at the same time performances by the drumming greats of the 70s transplanted to the rock idiom. I’m not 100 % but I think the drummer here is Gilles Reider. 

It’s the combination of Jad Fair’s switch to expressing longing/desire, the pared back poetry of the lyrics, simple and true like a koan and the drums:

Can I come over tonight?
Can I come over tonight?
What do you think I wanna do?
That's right
Can I come over tonight?
I say we will have a real cool time tonight
I say we will have a real cool time tonight
I say we will have a real cool time
I say we will have a real cool time tonight
I'd say will have a real cool time tonight
I say will have a real cool time
We will have a real cool time
A real cool time tonight


To hear the original from The Stooges 1969 self-titled record: American poetry in its purest form, yes (three minutes or less).

Here’s an interview with Jad Fair from The Quietus (2013) on the reissue of Half Gentlemen/Half Beasts

'You trip me up’ Jesus and Mary Chain (Psychocandy, Blanco y Negro Records, 1985) original/acoustic plus ‘My Girl’ cover & Spacemen 3 'Revolution'

With skin so Scottish pale it reflects the glare, it's hard to imagine the logic behind this video-shoot location on a sunny Portuguese beach other than it was meant to be a joke of some kind; as one person adds below the video, ‘The first time ever the band had seen the sun.’

This mix of a 60s pop-aesthetic and noise became standard the following decade, but when JAMC bubbled up onto the surface it was new, for some time. Check out this typically good feature from The Quietus Brown Acid Black Leather: the story of Jesus and Mary Chain’s Pyschocandy’ by Julian Marszalek, published in 2011.

Despite the overall serious tone of the interview, some of it is very funny. I like, for example, the image of JAMC rehearsing at the local community centre in East Kilbride, where the night before ‘old ladies played bingo’ or this quote from Jim Reid: ‘People would look out of their windows and see these skinny guys with sunglasses on pushing all this fucking stuff down the road. And we’d get there and argue for half an hour and then go home.’

Coda:

Released on Fire Records, 1988

'Karen' The Go-Betweens (Able Label, 1978)

I just want some affection
I just want some affection
I don't want no hoochie-coochie mama
No back door woman
No Queen Street sex thing
I want a tiger on bended knees
With all the kindness of the Japanese
I just want some affection
I wish I heard voices
Wish I was a telephone

Karen yeah-yeah, Karen yeah-yeah
Karen yeah-yeah, Karen yeah-yeah yeah
I said yeah, oh Karen!

I know this girl
This very special girl
And she works in a library, yeah
Standing there behind the counter
Willing to help
With all the problems that I encounter

Helps me find Hemingway
Helps me find Genet
Helps me find Brecht
Helps me find Chandler
Helps me find James Joyce
She always makes the right choice

She's no queen
She's no angel
Just a peasant from the village
She's my god, she's my god
She's my g-o-d, she's my god, yeah, yeah
She's my g-o-o-d, yeah

Oh, she's my god now Yeah!
Karen yeah-yeah, Karen yeah-yeah
Karen yeah-yeah, Karen yeah-yeah yeah
I said yeah, oh Karen!

And she stands there in the library
Like a nun in a church does
Like a nun in a church does
She stands there all alone
'Cos she gets me something that I
Just can't get now anywhere else
Cause the girls that I see
Walking around, yeah the ones I see
Walking on the street
Are so damn-da-da-da-damned cold
'Cos they must have eskimo blood in their veins
And the one that I want
I just can't see
I can't see her there
I can't see her anywhere

Alright!
Oh Karen yeah-yeah...
Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen, Karen!

How this song speaks to me ...