Posts tagged: British

Suede – New Generation

By , May 3, 2005

I wake up every day to find her back again
Screaming my name through the astral plane

Were I to list my favorite bands, nearly all of them would be bands that no longer exist, or if they do, have stopped releasing albums. Joy Division, The Smiths, Pulp, Suede– all no more. Even my favorite local band, The Aislers Set, seems to have stopped recording and touring. Were I pressed to list favorite bands still in existence I’d say Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, and Bright Eyes but none of those bands hold sway over me quite like those in the first list. While I cannot necessarily say they are hands down my favorite band of all time, no band better represents my coming-of-age years than Suede.

Suede New Generation 12

Oh, but when she is calling, here in my head
Can you hear her calling, and what she has said?
Oh, but when she is calling, here in my head
It’s like a new generation calling
Can you hear it call?

Suede really did usher in a new generation of music, and were arguably the original Brit Pop band. Their success heralded a radical stylistic shift in the sound of British rock, one that had last shifted with the advent of The Stone Roses, and paved the way for bands such as Blur, Oasis, Pulp, and Elastica. Suede was Britain’s answer to American grunge rock– a throwback to the glam days of David Bowie and Roxy Music tempered by the ‘it’s okay to be an outsider’ mentality of The Smiths– and made an ideal rallying point for misfits and dreamers the world over.

Suede’s best songs, taken together, form an unending narrative of of detached lovers, sexual experimentation, drug use, and life outside the lines of traditional British society, and “New Generation” is no exception.

And like all the boys in all the cities
I take the poison, take the pity
But she and I, we soon discovered
We’d take the pills to find each other

“New Generation” is from the Dog Man Star album, a massive, larger-than-life masterpiece of epic rock and roll, and quite possibly the single greatest rock album ever recorded, at least by my reckoning. It is definitely in my top five all time, and is probably my favorite of all. It soars to heights I’ve never heard another album attain.

Though this entry is really about one song, I would be remiss if I did not say a bit about the significance of the album. Dog Man Star is a record already heavily laced with melancholy themes and sounds, and the story surrounding its release only serves to amplify that despair. After a Mercury Prize winning debut album, and a brilliant EP, Suede had fans and critics alike eager for their second full-length album. Almost at the same time as the record was reported to have been completed, Bernard Butler, the guitarist and half of the song-writing team, left the band. Dog Man Star would seemingly be the last we would ever hear from Suede.

Things grew worse– it became unclear if the album would even be released– legal matters were likely to keep it shelved indefinitely. There was never a lower point in the life of a Suede fan. (Meanwhile, bands like Blur and Oasis, formally relegated to the back burner, took the implosion of Suede as an opportunity to rise to the forefront of the Brit Pop movement, and cash in on the next wave of British musical invaders to conquer the American airwaves.) Eventually, the album was released, and it was a huge success, albeit possibly the last effort by so promising a band.

I wake up every day, to find her back again
Breeding disease on her hands and knees
While the styles turn and the books still burn
It’s there in the platinum spires
It’s there in the telephone wires
And we spread it around to the techno sound
And like a new generation rise

To complete the story of Suede, much like in the song, we fans woke up one morning to find them back again. They didn’t break up. Instead they launched a crazy guitarist search and wound up with some teenaged Bernard Butler look-alike. I will not lie– skepticism ran rampant in the circles of Suede fandom, and when it was announced that Suede was to have a new single in stores, it was big news. The song was to be called “Trash.” Would it be just that? I remember standing at the cash register of the local record shop with the single in my hand, and my heart full of anticipation. I came home and fearfully popped “Trash” into my CD player. While totally different than Butler-era Suede, it was utterly fantastic in its own right, and it instantly became my anthem for that summer.

Sadly, post-Butler Suede is remembered best today not for their brief resurgence but for their subsequent failure, and even though I know in hindsight how it’s going to end (watch out for that iceberg, Suede!), it’s still nice to reminisce about the moment in time when, to a new generation of youth, Suede had in seemingly miraculous fashion survived what seemed at the time to have been a cataclysmic loss. Perhaps there really was hope for the rest of us.

It’s like a new generation calling
Can you hear it call?
And I’m losing myself, losing myself to you

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Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene

By , May 30, 2004

The last time I wrote about a book here, the results were less than spectacular– the resultant blog was downright dismal. I shall do my best to redeem myself with this, my third blogged book report.

Graham Greene is an author whose works I’ve long meant to explore. His name is always popping up, and it sometimes seems that everything he ever wrote was turned into a really good movie. It was actually a movie that finally lead me to read one of his books. I read This Gun For Hire after seeing the film of the same name, a noir classic featuring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake (*swoon*), and was utterly enthralled by Greene’s wordcraft. Here, I said, is a man who knows how to write! Subjects, predicates, adjectives, adverbs– it was all there. I was most pleased; it had been well worth the effort of locating the book. (And believe me, it wasn’t easy to find a copy of This Gun For Hire. After about a year spent browsing the “G” section of any bookstore I happened across, I finally found a copy of the novel.)

On the plus side, the hunt allowed me to familiarize myself with Greene’s other works, for I began to recognize titles I’d seen repeatedly while vainly seeking This Gun for Hire. Of all the titles I’d seen during my quest, one leapt out at me every time I saw it: Our Man in Havana. I liked the sound of that. He’s our man in Havana– our on-the-spot spy keeping his finger on the pulse of all developments in Cuba– and decided that that would be the Greene book I next read. So I read it.

I don’t want to spoil the surprises, so I won’t say too much about the story. I’ll tell you this much– it is a farcical tale of a vacuum cleaner salesman recruited to be a spy for the British Empire in Cuba. He invents associates and plots in order to please his superiors, and earn money. He begins to do his job too well and things begin to unravel, with disastrous, albeit hilarious, results.

The style of humor in this novel is precisely the sort I adore. It builds very slowly, and is quite dry. I get the feeling that more than a few people I know could read this book and not realize that anything was meant to be funny; the wit is of an intensely intellectual nature. Which is not to say it takes a rocket scientist, or in this case perhaps a PhD in English, to get the joke. I only mean to say that this is not in-your-face Adam Sandler Humor-4-Dummiez at work. There is a subtlety to both Greene’s writing and his wit that I don’t think can be appreciated by all readers. I am trying to think of one of those “it’s like Fad Gadget meets Steely Dan” sort of descriptions, as they are very popular lately, but the best I can come up with is that Greene crafts sentences that flow with the effortlessness of Hemingway, while dappling them with the razor-sharp wit of Wodehouse; he writes really well and he makes me lol.

Greene also makes the reader privy to the peculiarities of pre-Castro Havana. While researching for this blog I found a great quote from Graham Greene himself, explaining why he chose Havana as the setting for the novel. “In the meanwhile I had visited Havana several times in the early fifties…Suddenly it struck me that here in this extraordinary city, where every vice was permissible and every trade possible, lay the true background for my comedy.” That aspect of the city definitely comes to light in this story.

Summary: I hella enjoyed this book, Graham Greene is now among my favorite writers, and I’m about to read another of his novels, Brighton Rock.

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Suede – The Drowners

By , April 2, 2004

I have covered but two of my three favorite songs in previous blogs, even though I’ve been writing for more than a year. As I promised long ago to introduce you to all three of them, I think it is high time I finished the job.

So slow down, slow down,
You’re taking me over

And so we drown, sir we drown,
Stop taking me over

Currently Playing: Suede – The Drowners

The opening drum hits are hypnotic. It’s rare for a drummer to do anything terribly melodic, or memorable, or even at all original, but Simon Gilbert managed to accomplish all three of those feats in the initial four bars of this, the band’s first single. And then comes Bernard Butler’s guitar. He is hands down my favorite of all the Brit pop/ indie rock era guitar heroes, ranking above even Jack White, and his solo in “The Drowners”, which you can hear beginning at about 2:25 if you click the above link, is my favorite thing he ever recorded.

Suede - The Drowners

I can’t listen to Suede without feeling at least a little bit melancholy. In many ways, my “grown-up” musical life began with my discovery of Suede. I was utterly bored with modern music. Rap had begun to suck, and American rock was all about grunge. Nirvana achieved something amazing, and I was definitely into that sound for awhile, but a year or so had passed, and the music industry had begun to find ways to again co-opt something brilliant, and in the process ruin it. Then I heard “The Drowners” and my life changed. Everyone has that one band, or song, or moment, where music altered their perception of the world, and Suede was it for me. Theirs was the perfect combination: in lead singer Brett Anderson, Suede had the perfect mixture of the sexual mystery of Bowie and the literate swagger of Morrissey (though perhaps more importantly, a singer who realized that a truly great pop star is often a provocatively ridiculous character; but the band had the ability to kick ass, thanks to aforementioned guitar hero Bernard Butler.

Suede was my band. They soared to great heights almost immediately– they were named Britain’s band of the year before they even released a single– their debut album won the Mercury Prize (Britain’s top musical honor), released hit song after hit song, and then, they imploded. Butler left the band, and the release of their second full-length album, Dog Man Star, was in doubt. Its release was among the most bittersweet moments of my life; it was better, much better, than their already-amazing debut– perhaps the best record I’d ever heard. But that was it. No more Suede. Or was there? I’m getting off-topic. I’ll continue this narrative someday in a future blog.

Enjoy “The Drowners,” and try to see if you can figure out what the lyrics mean. Hint– they are hella gay.

Won’t someone give me a gun?

Oh well it’s for my brother

Well he writes the line wrote down my spine

It says “Oh, do you believe in love there?”

If you write a line down someone’s spine, where do you end up? Exactly.

Today’s Question: Do YOU believe in love, there?

My favorite part is towards the end, when Anderson is repeating the line “you’re taking me over,” and then shifts to “stop taking me over” as the music opens up one last time. Good stuff.

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Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out

By , March 20, 2004

It is not often that a new song is released that I instantly decide is one of my all-time favorite songs, but since I first heard this song in January I’ve not been able to stop playing it. Now, with but a click of the mouse, you can experience my new favorite song:

Currently Playing: Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out

Here’s the amazing part– even though probably no one in the room besides me had heard this song, when I played it at a party the other night, it FILLED THE DANCE FLOOR. I mean to say, people who were already dancing kept dancing, and people who weren’t dancing began doing so. I have never, ever, not even once, seen that response to a song that was unknown. It was not as if I had played a Michael Jackson record, mind you– people didn’t flood onto the dance floor and go bananas– but there were definitely more dancers by the end of the song than there had been at the beginning.

I attribute the attraction mainly to the main guitar riff; in part because it sounds vaguely reminiscent of something from the 1980s, though what I cannot say, and I’m pretty sure it has no direct antecedent but rather is crafted to sound as though it does, and in part because it is so utterly infectious. After the third listen one feels morally compelled to crank one’s air guitar up to eleven and rock out.

Then there is the unrelenting stomp of the beat. This is not uptempo electronica, this is good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll, with a heavy beat thumping along at a tempo designed for head-banging and body-moving, but it subsumes the ethic of the dance track. It’s New Order masquerading as AC/DC… it’s the Black Sabbath work ethic applied to the Duran Duran sensibility… it’s… it’s…. it’s in a category all its own, and its unwaveringly awesome. Alternative/ Indie rock has at last produced a legitimate floor-stomper. It remains to be seen if the song can cross-over and win mainstream appeal, but the fact that 30-something preppy-yuppie types were willing to dance to it, sight unseen, is encouraging.

Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out

The lyrical conceit of the song is a clever one, seeming to liken rejection to being shot:

So if you’re lonely
You know I’m here waiting for you
I’m just a crosshair
I’m just a shot away from you
And if you leave here
You leave me broken, shattered I lie
I’m just a crosshair
I’m just a shot then we can die.

As painful as a gunshot, or a breakup, can be, it’s better to experience the quick and unambiguous sting of one than to linger in a confused limbo. If you have to die, better by gunshot than a slower method; if the one you adore is not interested in you, better to find out sooner than later.

An alternative interpretation of the song is hinted at by the band’s very name– Franz Ferdinand. If you were paying attention during history class, you know that it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that precipitated World War I. When he was shot, his wife Sophie was shot, too, and they died side-by-side. Perhaps this song is Ferdinand’s plea for release into the afterlife; he’s already been shot, and is on the verge of death, his beloved wife has been murdered in front of him, or is also on death’s door, knocking loudly, and he knows his life is over, figuratively if not literally. Now he is begging for that literal end to come quickly.

I know I won’t be leaving here with you
I say don’t you know?
You say you don’t know
I say take me out.

Or maybe it’s just likening a breakup to a bullet in the head. Either way it’s a damn catchy song, and is already firmly entrenched amongst my all-time favorite tracks.

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Nick Drake – Pink Moon

By , November 10, 2003

I discovered Nick Drake quite by accident. I’m a huge fan of The Smiths, and I when I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off I recognized one of my favorite of their songs, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want,” being covered in spectacular fashion during the scene in the Art Institute Museum. I found out the band covering the song was The Dream Academy. (Incidentally, the discovery of that band launched me on into a big dream pop phase, during which time I immersed myself in the music of bands such as Cocteau Twins, The Chameleons, This Mortal Coil, Slowdive, Bel Canto, and so forth, but that’s a story for a different blog.) The Dream Academy had recorded a hit single, “Life in a Northern Town,” which I quickly grew to adore. At some point, I noticed the song was dedicated to someone named Nick Drake, and set about finding some of his music.

It wasn’t easy to find his albums. He only recorded three, and none sold very well. They were out of print for a while, then reissued, but not in vast quantities. Eventually, I tracked down a copy of Pink Moon and fell in love with it upon my first listen.

Currently Playing: Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Nick Drake’s story is a tragic one, and I won’t delve too deeply into it. He was a near recluse who seldom performed, was interviewed in print but once, and was never captured on film other than in childhood home movies. Pink Moon, his final, and in my opinion best, album clocks in at less than 30 minutes long. When asked why it was so short, he is said to have replied, “that’s all I had to say.” Sadly, his words were too true– he never recorded another album, and within less than three years, Drake was dead from an overdose of antidepressants. His death was ruled a suicide, though his family disputes that finding.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on its way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna’ get you all

So simple, and yet if you hear it sung, and the accompanying music, you can’t help but feel your soul overwhelmed by anguish mixed with beauty. More so than any other singer I know, Drake’s music encompasses heartache and sorrow in a way vague enough to allow you to apply it to your own life, and yet in a manner that appears deeply personal at the same time. Many bands accomplish the first half of that equation; Radiohead comes to mind. Myriad others capture the latter half; Morrissey anyone? Who but Nick Drake successfully juggled both elements at once?

Le Tigre - Le Tigre

In the opening paragraph I traced my meandering journey to discovering Drake’s music, because in many ways it mirrors the equally rambling path his music took from unknown to popular. For nearly 30 years after his death, Drake and his music languished in obscurity, only surfacing occasionally, as in the dedication that helped me discover him. In another blip on the radar, Robert Smith once stated that The Cure was named after a Nick Drake lyric, taken from “Time Has Told Me,” one of my favorite Drake songs,

Time has told me
You’re a rare rare find
A troubled cure
For a troubled mind.

Then, nearly overnight, Nick Drake became a posthumous celebrity. “Pink Moon” was used as the backing track for a car commercial, and within a few days, the improbable had happened– Nick Drake knocked N*Sync out of the Top 5. When I read the headline I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t seen the commercial, and my mind could not comprehend what I was reading. “Obscure English Folk Singer Nick Drake Nudges Pop Superstars N*Sync from Chart” made as much sense to me as would have “Jimmy Hoffa Found Living on Venus.” Once I read the article and learned about the commercial, of course it all became clear, but that may have been the only moment in my life where I was awake and honestly wondered if I were dreaming.

I’ll close with an excerpt from “Life in a Northern Town,” the tribute to Nick Drake that led me to discover his beautiful, pained songs.

The evening had turned to rain
Watch the water roll down the drain,
As we followed him down
To the station
And though he never would wave goodbye,
You could see it written in his eyes
As the train rolled out of sight
Bye-bye.

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Pulp – Disco 2000

By , October 28, 2003

My recent song blogs have digressed into personal anecdotes, musings on love, or commentaries on the gap between the always fantastic life one hopes to lead and the often mundane life one actually does lead. In short, I’ve strayed away from the original concept behind the posts, namely dissecting a song I find to be especially well-written. In what I hope will be harbinger of song-related song posts to come, today I will share with you the second of my triumvirate of favorite songs; I already wrote about one in a previous post.

Currently Playing: Pulp – Disco 2000

Well we were born within an hour of each other
Our mothers said we could be sister and brother
Your name is Deborah, Deborah,
It never suited ya.
Oh they said that when we grew up,
we’d get married, and never split up.
We never did it, although often I thought of it.

“Disco 2000” is another example of an uptempo, danceable song that sounds happy from a musical standpoint, but is lyrically a fairly somber and serious song.

I said let’s all meet up in the year 2000

Won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grown?

Be there 2 o’clock by the fountain down the road.

I never knew that you’d get married

I would be living down here on my own

On that damp and lonely
Thursday years ago.

Really, what more need I say? Jarvis Cocker, Pulp’s lead singer and songwriter, pretty much said it all right there. He continues the tale, recalling his unspoken crush on Deborah throughout their school years together:

You were the first girl at school to get breasts.

Martin said that you were the best.

The boys all loved you but I was a mess
I had to watch them try to get you undressed

We were friends that was as far as it went

I used to walk you home sometimes but it meant,

Oh it meant nothing to you.

’Cause you were so popular.

Pulp - Disco 2000 part 1

Deborah do you recall?
Your house was very small,
with wood chip on the wall.
When I came around to call,
you didn’t notice me at all.

For whatever reason, while this song is a positive dance floor anthem in most parts of the world, it never climbed the American pop charts. Unless you found yourself at some niche Britpop club back in the ’90s, á la San Francisco’s Pop Scene, you have probably never heard this song, which is a pity, for it is, at least in my opinion, one of the greatest pop songs of all time. I hope you’ve clicked the above link and heard it. Even if you don’t share my opinion, you can’t deny that it is danceable to the extreme.

It’s also enigmatic in its finale:

What are you doing Sunday baby?

Would you like to come and meet me maybe?

You can even bring your baby.

Will Deborah meet the protagonist on Sunday? Is her baby her husband, or is it her child? Has she divorced, and is she at last ready to embark on romance with the boy who has adored her since childhood?

Pulp - Disco 2000 part 2

A final note, and a personal one (I can’t escape it, can I?), this is the song that made Fizzy and I, well, Fizzy and I. We met in an elevator five years ago, almost to the day, and in the time it took the elevator to rise eight floors, we ascertained that this was both of our favorite songs. And then we fell in love. Okay, more stuff happened in between, but seriously– thank you Jarvis Cocker! I knew Pulp could do nearly anything, but I never knew Pulp could do anything like that…

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Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

By , June 10, 2003

“What is your favorite song?” That is one of the most common go-to questions for a person who is in the process of getting to know someone new. It is also a question dancers and party-goers often pose to the DJ. I’m not only a social person, I’m a DJ; this means I hear that question all the time.

It is a very difficult question for me to answer, but I can narrow it down to three songs. If pressed, I’ll say “Disco 2000” by Pulp is my single favorite song, but whenever possible I respond with a three-way tie between that song, “The Drowners” by Suede, and this song:

Currently Playing: Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

First, a quick music history lesson. Joy Division, though not very well-known today, was one of the bigger bands in the post-punk era. Though they only existed for about four years, their influence on today’s music is massive; they are without doubt one of the most influential bands of the modern era. They disbanded after the suicide of Ian Curtis, the lead singer. The remaining three members mourned, then reformed as New Order.

When the routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And the resentment rides high
But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart

The lyrics evoke desperation, loss, pain, defeat– all the things Joy Division has since come to represent. It is impossible for me to separate the tragedy portrayed in the song from the tragedy that ensued, and maybe that is as it ought to be. Ian Curtis left his suicide note for the entire world to hear over the strains of an upbeat, impossibly catchy synth-pop song.

Why is the bedroom so cold
Turned away on your side?
Is my timing that flawed,
Our respect run so dry?
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again

As great as they were, and as impeccable as their body of work is, “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” their final single, reminds the listener that Joy Division had yet to peak as a band. Their best was almost certainly yet to come, and Curtis’ tragic death robbed the world of whatever that music would have been.

In retrospect, the song is obviously autobiographical. The lyrics reflect the marital strife between Curtis and his wife and, sadly again retrospectively, offer up a plea for help from a man on the verge of his demise. It is that demise that imbues this song with the off-the-charts level of pain it continues to arouse in listeners more than two decades later. Curtis’ pain was real, not contrived in an attempt to sell records. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is his enduring legacy; it is inscribed on the headstone at his grave.

As an aside, although they are well-known among musicians and fans of post-punk new wave music, hardly anyone in the ‘mainstream’ knows about Joy Division; meanwhile, nearly everyone in that same ‘mainstream’ is aware of their later incarnation, New Order. When I first began DJing parties, I tried to incorporate Joy Division into my sets. Amazingly, at least to me, it nearly always clears the dance floor. Meanwhile, New Order songs like “Bizarre Love Triangle” elevate everyone to a state of dance-happy frenzy. While I should expect and accept that the masses are oblivious to what at least I consider to be the better of the two bands, I can’t help but be bothered by this fact.

Curiosity has the better of me– quick show of hands, who here is familiar with which band? Try to do more than chime in with a “me,” and instead let me know if you are know only Joy Division, only New Order, or both.

Do you cry out in your sleep
All my failings expose?
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Is it something so good
Just can’t function no more?
When love, love will tear us apart again

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The Libertines – Radio America

By , May 8, 2003

Here comes another blog about a song I like. As before, you can click the song’s title in order to hear it.

Currently Playing: The Libertines – Radio America

This is but one of twelve songs on an album that came out late last year– an album I already number among my favorite records ever, as evidenced by its place on the list of my favorite albums in a recent blog.

The Libertines - Radio America

The entire record is, as the title suggests, a punk rock punch to the throat. (“Up the bracket” is slang for just that, a throat punch.) How could it not be? Mick Jones was involved in the production for goodness sake, so naturally it rocks hard. The one real exception is the song I’m listening to right now, “Radio America.”

When Up the Bracket came out, I played this song on repeat for like days on end. This drove Fizzy crazy, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I am playing it again today; on repeat, of course. It’s one of a handful of songs, albeit a large handful, that I seem to need to hear at least five times in a row lest I feel unsatisfied.

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the rest of the record. “The Boys in the Band” and “Time for Heroes” are other favorites, and if anything “Time for Heroes” is my favorite of the bunch, but “Radio America” is this great moment of calm on an otherwise frenetic record. I’m a big fan of love songs that avoid the cheesiness to which most fall prey. There’s something beautiful about subtle, veiled lyrics and recurring themes that run through an entire album. This is why I dislike modern-day R&B music so much: it’s too damned literal. One can say “I love you” without spelling it out; one can also imply a desire to sleep with the object of one’s affection without saying “I wanna’ get with you.” It takes a much more clever poet to convey said sentiments without beating the reader/ listener over the head with them. And while subtle and poet are not words one typically uses when discussing Pete Doherty, in this case I find them to be very appropriate.

Granted, Up the Bracket is so much more than an indie punk rock record. In between the drunken fights and heroin injections are the scars of class warfare and the awkward uncertainties of someone posturing as much more than he inwardly believes himself to be. And right in the midst of it all is a heartfelt song of love.

And they watched old films flicker
Across the old palace movie screen
Crying, “What a shame as she slipped in the rain
The poor dancing girl, well she won’t dance again.”

And they tell me this was a transmission
To take my love, my love to you
And only to you.

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Ash – Girl From Mars

By , May 2, 2003

I rather enjoyed compiling the list of albums for my last post. As I alluded to in that post, music is a driving force in my life. As I don’t think I am unusual in this regard, from time to time I will devote a blog to a particular album, single, or song that I find especially interesting. I think my taste is eclectic enough that over time I should cover something of interest to most of my readers, either by introducing you to new music that you like, or discussing something you already enjoy. And along the way I’ll probably write about more than a few things you’ve neither heard before nor care to hear again.

Currently Playing: Ash – Girl From Mars

The text above is a clickable link, and will open up a new window in which you can hear the song.

Ash - Girl From Mars

This is a 3-track single, released in 1995. The two backing tracks, “Astral Conversations with Toulouse Lautrec,” and “Cantina Band” are interesting, the latter being a cover of the song played in the cantina scene of the original Star Wars film. As an aside, the band are obviously huge Star Wars fans– the album on which “Girl From Mars” appears is titled 1977 because that was the year Star Wars was released, and the album opens with the sound of a TIE-Fighter roaring past.

This post is devoted to the title track; I think it’s a pretty phenomenal song:

Do you remember the time I knew a girl from Mars?
I don’t know if you knew that.
Oh, we’d stay up late playing cards,
Henri Winterman cigars.
Though she never told me her name,
I still love you, Girl from Mars.

What a great conceit for a song. The girl who came into his life, with whom he spent late nights smoking and playing cards, and whom he knew only as the girl from Mars. It probably isn’t a true story, in fact I read somewhere the song was initially “Girl From Ards,” because the lead singer once dated a girl from the city of Ards, but who cares? Girl from Mars works better! She came into his life, never gave a name other than “I’m the girl from Mars,” and one day, as you learn later in the song, vanished. Wow.

I’m going to have to let you know (as if you couldn’t tell by now) that I am a huge fan of song lyrics. At their core, song lyrics are poetry, plain and simple. The addition of music elevates them to operatic levels of emotional significance. I’m especially big on subtle nuances, which for me can take a great song and bump it up to epic status.

Sitting in our dreamy days by the water’s edge,
On a cool summer’s night.
Fireflies and the stars in the sky,
Gentle glowing light
From your cigarette.
The breeze blowing softly on my face,
Reminds me of something else.
Something that in my memory has been replaced,
Suddenly it all comes back.
And as I look to the stars.

I remember the time I knew a girl from Mars
I don’t know if you knew that…

I probably heard this song 100 times before I caught the little rhyme “look to the stars” that leads into “girl from mars.” I love that.

I also love the story the song tells. I am not completely sure about this, but I *think* what’s happening is that the singer is with a girl he is currently seeing, and something has reminded him of the nameless Girl from Mars whom he now misses. It may be that the entire song is about the nameless girl, but the shift in tenses later in the song:

Surging through the darkness over the moonlight strand,
Electricity in the air.
Twisting all through the night on the terrace,
Now that summer’s here.
I know you are almost in love with me,
I can see it in your eyes.
Strange light shimmering over the sea tonight,
And it almost blows my mind
And as I look to the stars

makes it seem even more likely that there are two girls, one past, one present, involved.

Regardless of the specifics, I think this song just about has it all. It’s upbeat, with a catchy tune, but lyrically poignant and clever, with strong melancholy overtones. It also does something else I love in songs, which is to add a subtle change to the chorus at the end of the song. Ash does this from time to time to great effect, in this case the addition of “I still dream of you,” replacing “though she never told me her name” in the final chorus.

Do you remember the time I knew a girl from Mars?
I don’t know if you knew that.
Oh, we’d stay up late playing cards,
Henri Winterman cigars.
And I still dream of you.
I still love you, Girl from Mars.

I’ve never had a girl from Mars to miss, but I sometimes wish I did, for how romantically tragic would that be? Thanks to Ash, for three and a half minutes, whenever I want, I can pretend to miss a girl from Mars.

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I Tell About My Life Using Suede’s Lyrics

By , January 28, 2003

Weee! One of the commenters on a previous entry, PsychoHippy, had this neat thing on her page…you pick song lyrics to answer questions about yourself. Here’s my own version:

To start, pick a band or singer you know really well. Got one? Good. Who is it?

Who else? Suede! Well, I guess the who else could be Pulp. Or Joy Division? Bowie! George Michael? LOL! For kicks, I actually TRIED to do one with his lyrics, but it didn’t come out right. But then again, how could it? So I went with Suede.

Now the fun (and challenging) part. Answer the following questions using only that band/singer’s lyrics. Ready? Go for it!

Are you male or female?

Modern boys, modern boys
Hand in hand
Sick of the fear
Chasing away all the hungry years
We’re the modern boys

Describe yourself.

So steal me a savage, subservient son
Get him shacked-up, bloodied-up and sucking on a gun
I want the style of a woman, the kiss of a man

How do some people feel about you?

Filmstar, propping up the bar, driving in a car, it looks so easy,
Filmstar, propping up the bar, driving in a car tonight,
Filmstar, giving it class, living it fast, it looks so easy,
Filmstar, giving it class, living it fast tonight.

How do you feel about yourself?

Maybe, maybe it’s the clothes we wear,
The tasteless bracelets and the dye in our hair,
Maybe it’s our kookiness,
Or maybe, maybe it’s our nowhere towns,
Our nothing places and our cellophane sounds,
Maybe it’s our looseness,

But we’re trash, you and me

Describe your girlfriend/boyfriend/love interest.

She walks in beauty like the night
Discarding her clothes in the plastic flowers
Pornographic and tragic in black and white

Say something to him/her.

Oh it’s bigger than the universe
It’s bigger than the universe
It’s bigger than the two of us
Oh it’s bigger than you and me

We got a love between us and it’s like electricity

Where would you rather be?

Oh and I’m never alone now
Now I’m with her

Describe where you live.

Chic thug stuttered through a stereo dream
A fifty knuckle shuffle heavy metal machine
The tears of suburbia drowned the land

Describe how you live.

Here they come gone 7am
Getting satellite and Sky getting cable,
Bills and Bens and their mums and their friends
Who just really, really want to be loved,
Uncle Teds and their legendary vests
Helping out around the disabled,
From the flats and the maisonettes
They’re reminding us there’s things to be done.

But you and me, all we want to be is lazy

Describe how you love.

Won’t someone give me some fun
(And as the skin flies all around us)
We kiss in his room to a popular tune
Oh, real drowners
Slow down, slow down, you’re taking me over
And so we drown, sir we drown
Stop takin’ me over

Share a few words of wisdom.

I don’t care if you’re black or blue
Me and the stars stay up for you
I don’t care who’s wrong or right

_____________

All done. Don’t read all kinds of stuff into that. It’s just me choosing lyrics, not writing them.

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