31
Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 8 / The Streets – “Dry Your Eyes”

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POP FACTOR: 839 CONTROVERSY RATING:

Was I ever in love? I called it love.

I mean, it felt like love.

There were moments when –

well –

There were moments when.”
8 (Tom)

The Streets finally have indie cred here. Painfully hip fashionable stores (the kind that stock Vice magazine amongst the Vintage) play Mike Skinner’s music beside Adam Ant and “Jean Genie” era David Bowie, which always struck me as silly – there is nothing glamorous or artificial in his music. He is the perfect British novelist, someone who plumbs the banality and pathos of middle England.

The single makes me cry. I have heard people say that it tells the world that boys shouldn’t cry, and i think that this is a dangerous misreading. He is begging, of course, but he has to be beg – there is nothing left, she is going to go, and the desperation is palpable. The drying of eyes is not machismo bravado, but an honest recognition of the futility of the situation.

I cannot think of an American hip hopper (fuck that – I cannot think of an American musician) that engages in this kind of emotional vulnerability, you could argue Marshall Mathers, but he is blessed with a multiplicity of personae, there is only one the Streets, and his life is so indivisible from the life of both Mike Skinner and all of the lads that he represents. (Lad as romantic hero, instead of hooligan – a new trope?)

The best thing though is the honest use of cliches. The dialogue has a verisimilitude – who hasn’t had there mates use the line, there is plenty of fish in the sea, as an attempt to clear the debris of a broken relationship, or don’t cry – because there is nothing to cry about. Or how that muteness comes, and all you can say is I can’t say a word, or that calling for the chimera of trust.

Even the sung intervals, while not technically brilliant, are revelatory – the mark of good singing I think is finding what your limits are, and what the song requires and using that in tandem (which is why Courtney Love is a Great Singer and why Mariah Carey is a Poor Singer). Mr Skinner’s aching, broken, soft pleading is exactly what is needed here, the cradle of melancholy and dust is sadder then any of the lachrymose ballads that the American Idol crowd brings.

Aside from the singing? The introduction of strings as signifier of romantic ballad is a good notice of genre, so that there is no real time wasted with superfluous introductions, and then it almost becomes a capella, the drums and guitars providing a skeleton, nothing over the top, nothing in excess, just what needs to be said, and what is said is said very well. 10 (Anthony Easton)

Dry Your Eyes is a lover’s discourse. But you’d be mistaken to think Mike Skinner is singing to his soon to be ex-girlfriend. The whole point of the song is that he was never able to express himself, let her know how he really felt. Not when they loved each other and certainly not now when all falls apart. So now, when she’s ready to part, what little he is able to convey is through motion – the (right) words are still stuck in his brain. The only listener is you. I love how he’s able to use all the cliches to his advantage. That’s what love is: you’d be mistaken if you think what you feel is really original. It’s happened a million times before.

Dry Your Eyes is stacked up with cliches – from the “plenty more fish in the sea” to the weeping strings. But then that’s what makes you understand this love song: you hurt with him. You can take a song (and relationship) apart and try to find what really moves you to tears (or smiles). There’s never really one thing. So with Dry Your Eyes, it could be the lyrics, the way Mike Skinner sing-speaks’em, the strings, the shuffling beat,… I don’t know. Nor care. I just feel. 10 (Stevie Nixed)

There’s vulnerability in those imperceptibly important movements of the eyes and the hands, in that unending stretch of time between learning the truth and acting on it, in the rumpled double-tracked vocals of the chorus and bridge, in those precious young & restless weeping strings, in the solemn funereal drum machine beat, in that first moment when the knowledgable Streets fan realizes s/he might’ve mistakenly changed the channel from Lock, Stock… to Love Story, in hearing Mike Skinner actually sing (mewl, even) one of the hoariest cliches available (“there’s plenty more fish in the sea”), and in realizing that other cliche about cliches being cliches for a reason. You always find what you’re looking for in the last place you look. 10 (David Raposa)

In lesser hands, this would have been career sabotage. In fact, the whole idea of a rap opera involving a conceit as flimsy as a money-swallowing TV set (still not sure how that one works) should be the recipe for a disaster of “Kilroy Was Here” proportions. But it SO works. It’s always facinating, but rarely this successful, when a rapper takes the plunge. Like last year’s “Deliverance”, a hip-hop power ballad for the masses to sing in pubs and sports stadiums. “Goodbye Lucille #1” from both points of view. 10 (Henry Scollard)

Cynically released to cash in on British sporting teams going out in everything, Dry Your Eyes is not a typical single and offers no closure. A song for the dumped, we never get a song for the dumper. So we feel sorry for Mike (though fans of the album will also be aware that he has also wronged her). But it manages to articulate the incohate rage, the helplessness and the idiocy of the dumping situation. In the Grand Don’t Come For Free movie, there won’t be a dry eye in the
house. The song is for us as well. 9 (Pete)

When Spain was defeated in Euro 2004, the song that was rising in popularity in our country was Aventura’s “Obsesion”, whose chorus goes something like “no, it’s not love, what you feel is called obsession”. So Dry Your Eyes has absolutely nothing to do with Spain supporters’ feelings about our team, and anyway in order to do so it would have said “dry your armpits” instead. I can guess that we relate to football in a different way than english supporters do. But what really matters is that I can really relate to the song itself – I never imagined that the “there’s plenty more fish in the sea” cliché could be so touching – and I think it deserves all the praise and chart success it’s already getting. 9 (Diego Valladolid)

A videotape, rewound, replayed, over and over. Your fingernails are biting into your knuckles; you didn’t know they’d got that long, maybe it’s just that you’re gripping too tight.

You should stop that.

Except, right, this is the bit where she. And then-

You know the movements blind, by now, you must. You’ve repeated them, rewatched them, so many times your hands started to shape them in the air, his side, her side. Sign language. Turn the volume off, overdub it, reword the words, more convincing, more like what you ought to say.

Doesn’t matter; still ends the same.

Rewind, play. 9 (cis)

One problem with storytelling albums is that individual tracks can often work less well as singles, out of the logical and emotional context of their story, and this does indeed lose some impact. Still, it’s interesting to consider it as a single track – would we associate this with UK garage or hip hop if we’d heard nothing else by him? Strummed acoustic guitars, weak singing, talking about your unsatisfactory love life – I imagine I’d be thinking indie, perhaps the territory of, say, Arab Strap, notwithstanding some quiet electronic beats late on. Still, there are some very strong and wonderfully evocative lyrics in this (not least the opening lines), and obviously having and knowing the album I have the benefit of context so I find it easy to like, but I wouldn’t think it will find him a lot of new fans. 8 (Martin Skidmore)

I like Dry Your Eyes, I listen to it on my minidisc all the time. There’s a noisy office person at work who likes having an audience to talk at. He’s this scary looking tough guy, facial expression always says ‘you got a problem?’ and he likes to talk about the muggings and robberies that have happened in his neighbourhood over the weekend. It’s really funny hearing this guy going on and on in his Brummie accent: ?I mean, I mean, if they say hand it over, I’m gonna hand it over, y’know what I’m saying?! I ain’t gonna argue, no sir!?

He also likes to talk music. I once heard him say the name ‘Joss Stone’ at least five times in a single sentence. Anyway, yesterday he walks up to the coffee machine, and you know what he was whistling really loud? Dry Your Eyes. I mean, what’s that all about? Dry Your Eyes isn’t something you’d whistle, is it? Is it? I like listening to Dry Your Eyes, but it’s not exactly chirpy or cheerful, so you can’t really whistle to it, right? Or turn it into a dodgy ringtone either? 8 (Bushra)

It feels weird to hear this outside of the context of “A Grand Don’t Come For Free”, much more so than it did with “Fit But You Know It”; it feels like a clip from a classic movie or something. 7 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

It’s got a sweet sentiment, I kinda like it for that. I can’t really imagine sitting back and listening to it though, and maybe it is a little too much like some guy talking over advert music. 6 (Jel)

Hard to begrudge the love expressed for this song by most here. But I just don’t share the feeling. It’s not me, not my life – not that that’s a pre-requisite for my enjoyment of a song (indeed perhaps it’s more a complaint…to have loved and lost in this way suggests a life well lived, possibly), but I’m having trouble even recognizing it as a good song. Good like Dido? Good like Coldplay? Somewhere between poignant and trite for sure, and either way somewhat painful to listen to.

The strings are not particularly tingle-inducing, the guitar link not particularly heart-tugging, we’re used to Skinner’s audaciously semi-drawn speak/sing method at least, and usually it’s entertaining. Here I’m not so sure.. Maybe it’s the eagerness of people to mention the ease, pre-meditated perhaps, at which this song can be tacked on to accompany sports highlights or whatever i.e. DYS hell. As happy as I am that Skinner has scored a #1 hit with this, I’m also a little disappointed because I think it’s his weakest, most unimaginative single thus far. 5 (Steve Mannion)

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