It must be getting on for fifteen years ago that my good friend Daniel wrote “…on some days I listen to just one song, once”. That song was “Stumble” by Emily, still one of the greatest records I’ve ever heard. I’ve often wished I had Dan’s discipline. These days, through the curse of the CD walkman and too many train journeys, I’ve developed the habit of listening to one song countless times trying to get inside the thing, trying to hear it in different ways.

In all the recent talk about the post-punk of the early eighties, everyone seems to have focussed on the fiery and the funk-infused, while no-one’s been on about the quiet (and perhaps more pop) route out of punk. So it’s good to see John Carney taking a look at that stuff in two parts over on Tangents, sensibly placing Vic Godard bang at the centre where he belongs.

This last weekend, on train journeys bookending a punishing combination of hospital visitation and absurd celebratory drunkenness, two songs made it to repeat mode, both from The Pines‘ EP, “True Love Waits“. “MGM” sounds like it’s been ripped from the pages of “High Society” or something, an acoustic ambitious ambiguous bickering showtune duet backed by guitar and shaky egg. Hart would have been proud of “I always said that you put me in mind of a movie star / I never said which one…”, and the twist at the end of the song.

Better still, if anything, is “I See Stars”, a complicated simple song of devotion which coasts melodically along until it runs aground on the chorus. The chorus has no clear rhythm or structure, an actual real unchained melody, punctuated by uncertain spaces. Pam’s voice, too, manages to be simultaneously perfect, pure and flawed. This is an extraordinary record, easily fit to stand alongside those strange, semi-silent masterpieces by the Young Marble Giants or EBTG or Weekend from twenty years ago and more.

Of course, I must have listened to “Stumble” a thousand times, too, which is why my copy is now more or less worn out. With a CD you don’t pay that price. I wonder if that’s a good thing?

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