Posts from 5th September 2000

5
Sep 00

Okay, I’ll take a break for a couple of posts

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Okay, I’ll take a break for a couple of posts, it being Serge Gainsbourg next, a man who it seems sacrilegious to write about in an office. (That’s not really the reason). Pitchfork reviews SYR5, the latest in Sonic Youth’s experimental series and a Kim Gordon solo project. Kristin Sage Rockermann’s first two paragraphs are sentimental but touching and her remaining several are Pitchfork-y but OK, but the basic problem is that her argument (SYR5 = rubbish) rests on quoting Kim Gordon’s spoken-word poetry-lyrics stuff from the record.

Which is indeed awful, of course it is, because it’s Kim Gordon spoken word stuff. The one great absolute weakness of Sonic Youth, any Sonic Youth (though as far as I know Steve Shelley has been too sensible to try it) is the spoken-word beat poet element. When they write rock lyrics, great. When they write poetry, ungreat. (Kim Gordon’s probably better than Lee Ranaldo, though on the other hand LR has a kind of endearing Springsteenesque naivety on some stuff). Anyway, where Rockermann comes a cropper is in quoting the opening bit of “Teenage Riot”, all the “You’re it / Say it, don’t spray it stuff”, which looks in cold type every little bit as crappy as the SYR5 excerpts. Why does she think they phased it all so much on the record? And yet, on the record, that stuff works. So your reader is left thinking, how come SYR5 doesn’t work, too? (Clue: it’s got ‘illbient’ bits).

I is for….”I Want You More Than Ever”

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I is for….”I Want You More Than Ever” by The Clientele. As The Clientele continue their slow creep towards some small-scale kind of fame (with a sound as instant and recognisable as theirs, it’s pretty much assured), you just know they’re going to end up being one of those bands where every review winds up the same, and vague to boot. The feathery voice, the sepia sound, the unfussy guitar detail – writers like me will find shorthand ways to talk about these things and stick to them.

That’s not to say all The Clientele’s songs sound the same, because obviously they don’t. I’m always terribly suspicious of people bandying that particular insult around, as it’s so rarely true. All it means is that a band’s mannerisms are too off-putting to some listeners, so they never sink a bit deeper and spot the differences. “I Love You More Than Ever”, for example, is sunnier and less contemplative than (say) the beautiful “6 AM Morningside”, and a good deal less pert than “Reflections After Jane”. Meanwhile I’ve been wandering around listening to the tape Tim made me of these songs for two months, but I’ve yet to hit on a perfect place or mood for the band – they always seem a little out of kilter with wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. Which is part of the charm, but may be why even my favourite tracks haven’t fully locked with me emotionally yet: I can wallow in the atmosphere, relax and marvel at the sound, but The Clientele’s songs don’t yet have a life for me beyond the tape-end click.

IHM LYRIC WATCH 6: SEND OFF THE CLOWNS

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IHM LYRIC WATCH 6: SEND OFF THE CLOWNS

Smokey Robinson may have been “America’s greatest living poet” (called so by none other than Bob Dylan, a compliment quite on a level with being called America’s greatest landscape artist by Stevie Wonder), but he didn’t half write some nonsense. Consider this deathless verse:

“Well, there’s some sad things known to man
But there ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown
When there’s no-one around”

Now the question is, if there’s no-one around, how does Smokey know? Presumably other very sad things known to man, like the death of a puppy or the recent Happy Mondays reunion, are so known because they have been witnessed by man. But frankly in Smokey’s example we have only the clown’s word for it: perhaps his tears were in fact pretty meager, or even non-existent. Another concern is that the sadness of the tears in question is deeply dependent on the identity of the clown. If for instance a member of the Insane Clown Posse or their witless troupe of ‘juggalos’ were to meet with life-threatening misfortune it would be a cause for mass worldwide celebration, rather than any form of sorrow. In fact there are very few circumstances in which the tears of a clown would actually be sad. If he was weeping in horror in despair after hearing the song on yet another soundtrack of yet another gently nostalgic movie, perhaps: otherwise, it’s back to the garret and “Must Try Harder” for you, Robinson.

THIN LIZZY – Jailbreak

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THIN LIZZY – Jailbreak

You can just imagine the police not taking Phil Lynott altogether seriously as a snitch. With a hairdo / tache combination only seen on seventies footballers and a penchant for leather trousers – it would be like a transexual version of Cher as your number one supergrass. Also, perhaps it was the fact that Phil’s inside information was incomplete that scared him off going to the cops, and istead proclaiming it in the form of a rock song. Still, let us examine his information in full:

“Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak,
Somewhere in this town.”

If he had told the authorities, they could have perhaps doubled their forces to counter the possible explosion in crime which would follow such a escape. Nevertheless without the precise location of this exodus, it would merely be a holding exercise. If only Phil had known where that jailbreak was going to take place. Where oh where would these PRISONers break out of JAIL? Could be anywhere really.

“Tonight there’s going to be a jailbreak,
Probably at the jail”

I just think its a got a better ring to it. You know, considering its only possible to break out of a correctional institution if you are in it. It’s songs like this that people use t hold up the stereotype of Irish stupidity. Still, Lynott was no stranger to stupidity. He did end up making his solo album with Midge Ure after all.