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Feb 14

WHITE TOWN – “Your Woman”

Popular122 comments • 11,811 views

#757, 25th January 1997

yrwoman In 1997, talking about music on the Internet means USENET, a Gormenghast of diverging and reconnecting fora whose goblin tribes gleefully rampage through each other’s chosen lairs: a thread will start on alt.music.prodigy, then careen into alt.music.spice-girls via alt.music.misc, while Discordians and trolls plot to spread it still further. Still, there are hierarchies in this cheerful froth of just-unleashed opinion – top level domains rarely bump uglies. Rec.music.misc keeps a snooty distance from the alt.music rabble, and despite sharing a suffix, alt.music.alternative and uk.music.alternative only occasionally meet. The former talks about Mercury Rev, Pavement, and Spiritualized, but seems increasingly fond of chart pop, a tendency I do my best to foster once it becomes my late-night home. The latter has divergent interests: I glance at it now and then but the closest it gets to the fields I know is Stereolab. Urusei Yatsura, Long Fin Killie, The Yummy Fur, some bunch of Scots named after a kids’ TV show… these are what uk.music.alternative goes for. It is almost my kind of place: I keep it as a subscribed group on my newsreader but let the messages pile up unwanted.

UKMA was one answer to a difficult question: what happens to British independent music after Britpop? The music press were struggling with it. Britpop had finally given NME bands, Select Bands, Evening Session bands some proper stardom, but this meant the waves coming through were groups who wanted to be rock stars, and sounded like it too. As American alternative music had discovered a few years before, success can be toxic.

A reaction against Britpop was natural – raggedy, difficult, geeky bands with proud local followings and an ambivalence about fame on any terms but theirs. The fame question was not completely moot: the music press, trying to reconnect with an audience it had dumped for Britpop, would occasionally announce that Tiger, or someone, were the Next Big Thing. One affable and confused centre-spread later and they’d be banished again.

But, as it turned out, there was something to all this desperate panning for gold. Independent music had useful friends at Radio 1, and at the start of a year, with a restless audience hot for novelty, who knows what might happen? One-hit wonders have to come from somewhere – why not from down in the indie grassroots?

What I would never have expected is that a novelty hit – and for all that it’s a sly and marvellous pop song, “Your Woman” is a novelty hit – would have come not from a band liked by uk.music.alternative, but from ukma itself. Jyoti Mishra, AKA White Town, AKA a prominent ukma regular.

Being a novelty hit doesn’t mean being a joke, or a prank. Unlike some one-offs which seem to mock the chart they’re on, once “Your Woman” became a hit it sounded naturally like one. There was even a fairly recent precedent. From across an Our Price counter, the soundscape of White Town’s hit – breathy, slightly enervated vocals; haunted, static-wreathed samples of old-world tunes – wasn’t too far off Scouse second-wave Britpoppers Space. Except where Tommy from Space capered around his songs acting the goat, Mishra burrows into the heart of “Your Woman” and destabilises its apparent jauntiness. His lyrics are built to make a basic question – who is singing what to whom? – deliberately obtuse. The contempt in his voice – and its angry momentum – is rather less mistakable. The situation is hard to read: the hurt easy. Another comparison point – bubbling up from the programming of “Your Woman” – is Soft Cell: rough technology rubbing up against unhealthy, captivating venom.

The see-sawing Al Bowlly sample that animates “Your Woman” is at once its biggest earworm – the reason we get to cover it at all – and something that never quite fits itself to the rest of the song. Instead it frames Mishra’s singing, and the wrath of his narrator, as something quaint themselves – it feels like the whole record is coming from some forgotten side-past of pop, where Noel Coward wrote songs about doomed Marxist love affairs.

“Forgotten side-past” is a good, sad epitaph for much of USENET itself, long fallen into disrepair, maintained somewhere on Google’s vast servers as a hard-to-navigate footnote. I think of “Your Woman” as the first “Internet” number one, when in fact it’s nothing of the kind. The direct audience-building tactics that can give someone like Alex Day a Top 10 hit via YouTube were years off. “Your Woman” built its audience the same way one-offs had for decades – patronage by a Radio 1 DJ who made it a cause (in this case the Mark and Lard team, just before their stint on the Breakfast Show, which will soundtrack much of this strangest of chart years). Jyoti Mishra’s residency on uk.music.alternative was, essentially, coincidence, however much my own bedroom-bound memories of 1997 protest otherwise, and however much this record matches those memories. But it matters on some level all the same – as he himself said, in one of the very rare interviews this site has run, “for that brief period, the spirit of ukma was at number one”.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    admin on 5 Feb 2014 #

    (Why on earth doesn’t that interview doesn’t come up in related posts. grr)

  2. 2
    Tom on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Related posts is a fickle jade. “Your Woman”‘s appearance in the Top 100 Records Of ALL TIIIIIIME also doesn’t appear.

  3. 3
    @PhasersClub on 5 Feb 2014 #

    One for @edwardiansnow

    “@tomewing: When USENET got to No.1 http://t.co/gGmRmmJ5Ez – Popular entry.”

  4. 4
    admin on 5 Feb 2014 #

    wonder if there’s a way to get it to key on unusual words (jyoti would link them all undoubtedly)

    edit: i’ve found a setting that was limiting the linked articles to within less than a year and cut that loose, so now the top100 is linked, but not the interview still :-(

  5. 5
    Tom on 5 Feb 2014 #

    BTW – to continue this excellent admin-based comments thread – the lack of header pic is I believe intentional, reflecting the vaguely cryptic non-marketing of White Town at the time.

  6. 6
    TriffidFarm on 5 Feb 2014 #

    I particularly liked White Town for the anonymity of Jyoti Mishra, which I initially presumed to be psuedish, and then became a kind of usurping move – he was a geek, and probably would have been rejected as the wrong kind of geek had his identity been known.

    Instead this slight-of-hand wrong-footed plenty of people, and upon revealing who he was – was it a Saturday morning show? That’s what I remember – my feeling was that there was a sense of embarrassment amongst pop deciders: that all of these techno emblems were not abstracted icons for t-shirts etc, but were there because this was the universe that this Star Trek fan inhabited.

    This felt like a victory to me, and is pretty much why I bought it. That, and it has a pretty tune.

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 5 Feb 2014 #

    I love this! It’s catchy, mysterious and quirky. There’s something almost nursery-rhyme like about the melody which appeals to me – Reading about it’s lineage on wiki I see that the Al Bowlly version of ‘Your Woman’ which it samples was featured on the Pennies from Heaven soundtrack. I’d been fairly obsessed by the TV series as a teenager and had the soundtrack on cassette so the tune must have lodged in my brain somewhere.

  8. 8
    katherine morayati (@morayati) on 5 Feb 2014 #

    fascinating bit on Usenet, White Town and one of the earlier “Internet hits,” by @tomewing: http://t.co/cpfm8ShzDA

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 5 Feb 2014 #

    It all begins in a bedroom doesn’t it? The same could be said for any of the artists featured on Popular so far. I’ll wager a young Diana Ross practised with a hairbrush in front of her bedroom mirror, or a young John Lennon glancing from Bert Weedon’s book to the neck of his acoustic guitar, making sure his fingers were forming the right chords. Or a nerdy-looking lad tapping away on the keyboard of his computer, getting to grips with some nifty music-making software. And “Your Woman” was quite the head-turner, when it cropped up on the radio. A killer hook and a pre-rock sample. Nothing like “Doop” and nothing like anything else, really. Well, slightly reminiscent of The Divine Comedy, but grittier and much less raised-eyebrow-sideways-glance than Neil Hannon and all the more refreshing for it. The gender-ambiguity just enhanced “Your Woman’s” appeal, as well as not really knowing who this artist was, slap-bang in the middle of the 90s, when image was everything.

    To this day I have no idea what Jyoti Mishra looks like, or have any clue if there was an album. Here and gone in a matter of a few weeks. But that didn’t matter either. Jyoti emerged from a bedroom, claimed a #1 single and slunk back there, succeeding where armies of potential bedroom superstars had failed.

  10. 10
    Mark M on 5 Feb 2014 #

    So a couple of quick thoughts: White Town is (possibly inevitably) the only act that will trouble Popular who I have seen play in the top room of a pub.

    Secondly, I had no idea about the source of the sample until about three weeks ago, when (because she had recently died) I was watching a bunch of Joan Fontaine movies. One of which was A Damsel In Distress, in which her hapless but musical suitor is played by Ray Noble, who I didn’t know then but know now wrote most of Al Bowlly’s hits (although not My Woman, where the sample comes from).

    Bowlly was an interesting character, too, probably Britain’s biggest male singing star of the 1930s, he was Greek/Lebanese born in Mozambique, one of those facts – like the career of Edmundo Ros – that reminds us that London was never monocultural.

  11. 11
    Alan on 5 Feb 2014 #

    This gets a 2nd-life in the 2010 cover (it got to #8) which was effectively the debut for a later chart-topping act.

  12. 12
    Alan on 5 Feb 2014 #

    @8 There’s a couple of grainy glimpses of him in the video

  13. 13
    Chelovek na lune on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Fabulous record, natural, apparently singalong pop but that doesn’t quite reveal itself fully, makes play with references all over the place, looking way, decades, back and well outside the 1997 mainstream. , And a lyric mentioning ‘your highbrow Marxist ways’, too…

    In terms of overall feel, the record I know that this most closely resembles is probably Bongwater’s early 90s album ‘The Power of Pussy’: part pop, part character-play, part nerd, combining off-beat intelligence and melody, and astutely-chosen samples. No chance ever of that getting anywhere near no 1: that this did so is a rare treat.

  14. 14
    Mark M on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Re12: Not a comparison I’d ever made, but one to ponder. (Ah, Bongwater – ‘They have Nick Cave dolls now? I want one!’)

  15. 15
    wichitalineman on 5 Feb 2014 #

    This confused me more than possibly any Popular entry up to this point.

    Your Woman (wasn’t the single given an EP name to add to the air of strangeness?) felt closer to the early 80s DIY electropop scene than anything, the singles put out by acts like Thomas Leer (Private Plane) or Blancmange (Irene And Mavis) before they got a deal – if it reminds me of Soft Cell, then, it’s of Mutant Moments rather than Bedsitter.

    As with previous radio-play Popular entries (Theme from MASH), I’m confused as to why THIS one stuck, and not the Icicle Works’ Hollow Horse (a Mike Read favourite) or Willie Nelson’s City Of New Orleans (Wogan), or dozens of others.

    The Al Bowlly sample always sounded to me like the Darth Vader theme played on a weedy gramophone, which meant it sounded silly, and that was something I couldn’t shake out of my head whenever I heard it.

    So this was the equivalent of Another Sunny Day or the Versatile Newts (not even Felt!) getting to number one. That element of White Town’s success made me happy, but… the vocal is so weak and uninvolved*, the artwork pug-ugly, the “obtuse” gender-play of the lyric pitiful when lined up against If I Was Your Girlfriend or Boys Keep Swinging.

    (Nice to see Tiger get a mention! I was defending them against a “history’s worst band” call just the other day)

    *though I like the idea of a “forgotten side-past of pop”, I think this has more to do with Jyoti Mishra’s primitive bedroom recording equipment (inability to sing out without distorting the vocal, or waking his parents) than a desire to sound Coward-like.

  16. 16
    Ed on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Like Wichita, I don’t really love this one, but I do love the idea of it.

    The fact that a record this defiantly odd could get to be a UK number one single is what makes the charts – our charts – so appealing.

  17. 17
    mapman132 on 5 Feb 2014 #

    TEN! My first official one on this board since “Stay” five years prior and probably my last of the 90’s unless there’s a hidden treasure I don’t know about (I would have given a 10 to a #2 hit from later in ’97 – I’ll mention it when we get there).

    As usual for me, it’s hard to say exactly why I like this record so much. The quaint sounding sample combined with the modern electronica and distorted vocals was pretty much irresistible to me. The lyrical conundrum is rather amusing: Is he a gay man singing to a straight? A straight man singing to a lesbian? Is there a political interpretation? Am I reading into it too much? Does it really matter?

    Loved the video too, especially the adorkably cute protagonist (the “k” is not a typo – look it up if you need a definition).

    I hadn’t known there was a Usenet connection, although it doesn’t surprise me. The Abort Retry Fail reference was a clear geek giveaway in the 90’s. Unfortunately White Town proved to be a one-hit wonder in pretty much the strongest sense of the term. I remember listening to either Abort Retry Fail or Women In Technology in a record store back in 1997 and being unexpectedly underwhelmed. Oh well.

    I was secretly hoping this would be Tom’s next 10, but I’m glad it at least got a 7. For the record, “Your Woman” reached #23 on the Hot 100, not bad for a record of this type at the time.

    In case it wasn’t already clear, 10/10 from me :)

  18. 18
    Billy Hicks on 5 Feb 2014 #

    1997 began as 1992 should have done. While five years earlier two of the best tracks of the era, KLF’s ‘Justified & Ancient’ and The Prodigy’s ‘Everybody In The Place’ had both frustratingly fell short at #2, here we have two of the best tracks of early ’97 hit the top.

    Had certain others followed in its wake – Sash’s ‘Encore Une Fois’, DJ Quicksilver’s ‘Bellissima’, Blueboy’s ‘Remember Me’, James’s ‘She’s A Star’ and the best ever version of The Source’s ‘You Got The Love’ amongst others, we’d be in the midst of the greatest run of #1s since that glorious spring and summer of 1990. Sadly after the next one it’s much more hit and miss and continues as so for the rest of the year.

    This one at least is a well deserved 8. Amongst all the boybands and a certain girlband around (and we hadn’t even seen the start of this yet) defining the start of late 1990s pop, this sounds wonderfully refreshingly different. I have the EP and Jyoti even puts his personal website and email address on the backside of the cover, surely a Popular first?

  19. 19
    taDOW on 5 Feb 2014 #

    80s nostalgia began in america before the 80s were even over w/ mtv bringing martha quinn back to host a heymanrememberthe80s show in 1989. “80s hour” became a common radio phenomenon (esp on altrock radio which was able to trot out a bloc of new wave classics as a method of demonstrating hipness while not straying from the familiar) and by the late 90s “all 80s” stations had started to emerge (the format never really took off but provided enough competition that oldies stations began to leave the 60s largely behind and incorporate more 80s and it largely provided the template for the ‘variety hits’ format of recent years). the 80s had come to assume the central reference point that the 60s had held for so long (the 70s moment in the nostalgia spotlight generally limited to dazed and confused and pulp fiction soundtracks). when depeche mode had their demi-comeback in 1997 “the 80s” was part of the narrative, despite depeche mode having had their greatest success during the early 90s (stateside at least) – they were synthpop + synthpop was “80s” -> they were “80s”. it was inevitable that some “80s” song would emerge to capture and it was a miracle that well before electroclash and alphabeat that hit would be “your woman”, a song that played w/ “80s” but managed so much more. esp rare for a song that trades in nostalgia it’s strengthened by the wisdom and experience its audience has acquired since the era under focus, the distance in time proves to be an advantage instead of an uncanny valley the artist must somehow cross or hope the listener doesn’t notice. in america the 80s were a period of virulent homophobia culturally and politically and yet in the music an era of profound queerness and androgyny. gay culture had been sufficiently underground to this point that the mainstream’s gaydar was nonexistent nevermind finely calibrated and so there could be actual debate about whether boy george was gay and the queerness of a pet shop boys could pass by largely unnoticed and unremarked upon by the larger culture. it was an era of non-gender specific pronouns and subjects in songs. by the late 90s the culture had shifted considerably – a president that made token gestures toward the lgbt community (if not much in terms of policy) could be reelected president (albeit w/ the triangulation of doma – america still had a ways to go) , you could have an out gay female character as the protagonist of a sitcom (albeit briefly), and the ‘gay best friend’ had become a cliche in romcoms (albeit by remaining celibate as far the plots were concerned). in this context “your woman” was like encountering a friend at a high school reunion who had come out during college and you could be happy for their journey and maybe congratulate yourself for having “always known”. nostalgia waves can have something specific to say about the cultural environment – the ’50s’ nostalgia of the 70s reflected a kind of reactionary conservatism that would eventually seize power at the end of the decade, the bonnie and clyde “30s” nostalgia of the late 60s probably does a better job of demonstrating radical chic than tom wolfe managed – but it’s rare that what it has to say is positive, it’s rare that the message of a nostalgia novelty hit is “things changed. for the better.” 8.

  20. 20

    This is the greatest article about White Town’s “Your Woman” and USENET you will ever read. #alt.pop.hyperbole http://t.co/mmpmVC8BjF

  21. 21
    swanstep on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Strange how the pop charts work: this track can ride its nice sample to the top whereas other broadly appealing, sample-heavy oddities, e.g., ‘Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand’, barely scrape into the UK Top 75. Maybe it’s the ghost of ‘West End Girls’ that I detect somewhere in YW’s sound palette that makes the difference, that explains why this hit the spot. YW also reminds me, in some strange subterranean way, of Mayfield’s ‘Give Me Your Love’ (from the Superfly s/track). Anyhow, points off for the strictly amateur-hour synth piano and drum track, but there’s still enough good here for a:
    6

  22. 22
    @biondino on 5 Feb 2014 #

    The most People Like Us no. 1 ever? RT @tomewing: When USENET got to No.1 http://t.co/H6OUU9dCVJ – Popular entry.

  23. 23
    Andrew Farrell on 5 Feb 2014 #

    #18 – if it’s the same website as on the interview, I’m even more impressed that it still works (and is being updated regularly by the artist – there can’t be too many of those bothering the top of the charts).

  24. 24
    Mark M on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Re15: That hint of the Darth Vader theme probably didn’t hurt – it was around this time, the 20th anniversary year, that it became clear how big Star Wars would remain. The generation for whom it had been the monster event of their childhood were (mostly) emerging from the early ’90s slump into grown-up jobs and had (pre-kids) disposable income; and in some cases were arriving into influential media jobs…

  25. 25
    Steve Williams on 5 Feb 2014 #

    I remember Select reviewing the follow-up to this single with the line “Remember the name of this song so in three years’ time you can get a point when your pub quiz asks ‘What was the name of the follow-up to Your Woman that got to number 37?'”. Didn’t even get that far, though.

    This record got quite a lot of Radio 1 exposure. Mark and Lard championed it first of course, but did so during one of their stints on the breakfast show while standing in for Evans – the week before Evans quit in fact. It was then taken up by Simon Mayo who played it loads and indeed the week this was number one coincides with the week Mayo was parachuted back onto the breakfast show to fill in for a month.

    It’s only after reading the review I noticed its similarity to Space, in fact the middle eight of the following year’s Avenging Angels sounds virtually the same. Always had a bit of a soft spot for Space though it’s probably right to say Tommy Scott’s vocals – and lyrics – were always a bit of an acquired taste.

  26. 26
    Weej on 5 Feb 2014 #

    “Stereolab. Urusei Yatsura, Long Fin Killie, The Yummy Fur, some bunch of Scots named after a kids’ TV show…” – aside from Long Fin Killie (who I believe I’ve never even heard) this is a pretty accurate list of my listening in 1996/1997. I wasn’t on usenet, though – didn’t even have an internet connection until 1998, by which point things had moved on to mailing lists, and while I did manage to join in at that point (at least one FT person might remember me making an arse of myself) these bands remind me of an earlier time – Mark & Lard / John Peel / fanzines – much more than UKMA.

    The story of Your Woman as I experienced it was like this: Mark & Lard’s graveyard shift was essential listening throughout 1995 and 1996 – aside from the comedy (just ok by my reckoning, others were huge fans), the live sessions (too many favourites to list here), the poetry (!) and the general air of friendly discovery, they seemed to hit that magic sweet-spot of always introducing new, interesting music, picking a new favourite song every few weeks and playing it every night until everyone heard what they heard. My favourite of these was Belle & Sebastian’s ‘The State I Am In’ – didn’t get it on first listen, but can’t imagine a world without it now. NB: this approach didn’t work AT ALL when they made Teen Anthems’ “I Hate Oasis (And I Hate The Beatles)” their single of the week on the breakfast show (why did they think that would be a good idea?).

    Your Woman seemed to be played on every M&L show from mid-November ’96 onwards, and once again I went from disinterest to (this time mild) enthusiasm. This time the other DJs started playing it, and by January it had moved onto the Radio 1 ‘A’ playlist. My astonishment was complete when I saw the video at #1 on The Chart Show as (a) there was a video? and (b) it was at number one!?!? It remains, as it was, a nice enough indie-electronica track with a cleverly used sample and a pleasantly strange rumbling synth bassline. The vocals are slight, the lyrics willfully ambiguous (I remember Jyoti saying “I think it’s very clear what it’s about” when asked by Radcliffe, utterly deadpan) but I’m willing to overlook its flaws as it represents something I felt part of becoming at least briefly successful, and that’s rare enough.

    A couple of other points. First it’s true that this did look like an EP, though the varying tracklisting and lack of attention to the other tracks means that there’s no real need to include them here. For the record, though, ‘Give Me Some Pain’ is an Associates-style stripped-down electro ballad, and quite good for it, ‘Theme For A Mid-Afternoon Game Show’ sounds like a Denim b-side, and ‘Theme For A Late-Night Documentary About The Dangers Of Drug Abuse’ sounds exactly how you’d imagine it to sound.

    Also, as Jon Savage pointed out in an article about Britpop (can’t find it, sorry), this is the second of a trilogy of British Asian indie #1 singles at the starts of ’96, ’97 and ’98 – if I recall correctly he suggested that the interest of the music press in creating scenes / buzz seemed to be limited to groups that were ‘four white blokes with guitars’ and that this was fairly telling about the what was included and excluded from Britpop. TBH I’m not 100% in agreement with this idea (and may have oversold it) – there were black and Asian members of The Boo Radleys, Black Grape, Echobelly and even Ocean Colour Scene – but I think he does have a point of sorts.

  27. 27
    Andrew Farrell on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Also as someone on the (still largely silent) internet at this point, interested in music but still in the island to the left, this was all very confusing – this is probably the third or fourth time I’ve heard it ever, and I remember the first time sitting down to intentionally hear it, assuming that it’d be something that I’d heard in passing but never twigged what it was – nope, nothing.

  28. 28
    wichitalineman on 5 Feb 2014 #

    The indier-than-thou local scene stuff of the mid/late 90s didn’t really strike me until I was introduced to Slamt in 1996, a north-east label that had already released what seemed like dozens of singles that were completely off my radar. They had a tie-up with some Scottish bands/labels but that seemed to be as far as their network, or their ambition, extended.

    I’m intrigued to know how YW ended up distributed by Chrysalis and whether there were any repercussions in the fierce indie world for Jyoti.

    Re the USENET stuff: We had an office funded by EMI when this came out and didn’t even have email – just an EMI intranet thing (which enabled me to ‘legally’ get CDRs of unreleased Bobbie Gentry and Billy Fury recordings in the EMI vaults). I didn’t have an email address for another year at least, and didn’t buy anything (a record, of course) from the internet until 1999.

  29. 29
    flahr on 5 Feb 2014 #

    It’s actually Popular which brought me to the >Abort, Retry, Fail?_ EP – or, rather, it was via Popular I found out about ChartStats (as it was then) and browsed their list of number one singles looking for something to listen to. And, since I was at the time a computer science student, its name and its stark, simple cover couldn’t fail to appeal to me.

    At the time I was madly crushing on a girl who tended towards the fatalistic in her prognostications – “we’re not meant for each other”, “it couldn’t work between us”, those sorts of universal statements. And indeed those sorts of statements recur on Women in Technology, the album from which “Your Woman” is taken (though it doesn’t feature the rest of the songs on the EP – briefly, the heavy drum melancholia of “Give Me Some Pain” and two perfunctory but jolly “Theme”s), and indeed “Your Woman” itself is heavy with that topic – no wonder I liked it so much, then.

    But I also liked it so much – and like it so much – because it is the greatest song of all time.

    Its charmingly off-kilter video must have helped its sales, I imagine, with its evocation of silent film pointing up the ‘nostalgia’ of the sampled trumpet line (though with the rest of the record the way it is only a fool could think this some necrophiliac exercise in empty reference), and its heroine lost and confused and taken advantage of in this bizarre expressionist world – recalling the song’s lyrics and the way its hero(ine)(?) seems equally lost in all the loops and cycles that the music consists of (but in both song and video (s)he breaks free in the end! – spoilers). Scanning the YouTube comments (or indeed Jyoti’s invaluable FAQ) will reveal another possible source of success, the number of people who associate this song with Star Wars (geek chic: born in 1997?).

    Everything about it feels slightly off-centre, slightly unstable – Mishra’s voice, semi-processed as if it’s coming through a radio (or, indeed as it was in the video, a TV); the sampled trumpet line, cut free of context and plaintive and seesawing; the way the guitar phases and wobbles and, towards the end, seems to second-guess and anticipate itself in its timing. I had an idea for an alternative video in which the woman protagonist is pursued by the lyrics coming through radios, televisions, computers and (in the bridge) washing machines (something about the descending beeps makes me think of them, something about the way the song decelerates to halt at the end makes me think of a drum spinning down) – it is a very mechanical song, but they’re mechanics that don’t quite work, valves and mercury delay lines instead of Kraftwerk’s transistors, and something about that makes it feel fraught with fear, uncertainty, that central sense of not belonging which is reflected in the lyric.

    It is a song with as much wealth of detail, as much denseness as any Hitchcock film – only just now have I noticed the way one of the beats of each bar sounds different to the others, squelchy, lopsided. It alludes to the alienation and division suggested by the name “White Town” (a reference to segregationist practises in British India as well as the difficulties of growing up Indian in predominately white Derby). It is the fundamental song of the modern era, the song that best encapsulates the terror and loneliness of being unable to forge a connection in a world full of noise and machinery and people, the truest musical version of “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”. It is a chiming, mocking, dizzy labyrinth, and it is a ten ten ten ten ten. [10]

  30. 30
    flahr on 5 Feb 2014 #

    Other remarks:

    I would have been three at the time so I have no memory of this hitting #1, and thus I don’t know if it was as “Your Woman” the single or >Abort, Retry, Fail?_ the EP – personally I prefer the latter because it’s a cool name, but my copy of the CD has both names on it so honestly it’s anyone’s guess. The other tracks on the EP are all pleasant but not particuarly impressive, but what with “Your Woman” being the greatest song of all time (see above) they don’t affect the mark at all.

    I am listening on someone else’s laptop at the moment, and the speakers keep varying in volume more-or-less randomly, which adds an extra dimension of pleasing wooziness to the track.

    Wiley’s “Never Be Your Woman” is not entirely pish, although having the line “I could never be your woman” actually sung by a woman is a bit pointless. I haven’t seen the alleged romantic comedy named for the song.

    Still over a decade until the first chiptune number one, but at least the countdown starts here.

    It’s been a long time since I read my copy of The Blue in the Air but I recall I was disappointed to find no mention of this song in its entry on “My Woman”, the song from which the trumpet is taken.

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