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Archive for the ‘The Go-Betweens’ Category

 SOUNDTRACKTHE GO-BETWEENS-“Streets of Your Town” (1988).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

The Go-Betweens were the brainchild of wonderful songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan.  They wrote beautiful poppy, catchy songs, often with dark lyrics.

“Streets of Your Town” starts out with a boppy beat and a catchy guitar riff.  It opens with the chorus–“round and round, up and down, through the streets of your town.”  Then the tone shifts.

The verse is still musically perky but then you get this lyric

,And don’t the sun look good today?
But the rain is on its way
Watch the butcher shine his knives
And this town is full of battered wives

Right back into the bouncy chorus. This was a pretty big single for them and yet those lyrics.  A perfect study for a budding sonmgrwiter.

[READ: February 3, 2021] “Waiting for To-Go”

This is a short Shouts and Murmurs piece from Sam Lipsyte.  I have really enjoyed his stories but realized I haven’t seen anything from him in a while.  This, like many Shouts and Murmurs, seems pretty funny but in reflection, is only mildly amusing.

The title is part of the joke in this piece.

Two people named E and V (see Beckett) are sitting in a room gazing at their phones

In the first scene one of them says he heard a podcast about the Neolithic or something.  The other asks if that was the Stone Age, but he says no, they had copper, like copper axes.

The second person says copper sounds nice, but he is referring to the copper pan that he just bought,

In scene two, later tin the night, one of them, looking at his phone, says “My God. That’s amazing.”

What is it?
No.
What?
Nothing.
Oh.

(more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_23_14Booth.inddSOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-If I Had a Hi-Fi (2010).

nadaI have enjoyed Nada Surf more with each album.  But for some reason, I never bothered checking out this covers album.  Which is my loss.  Covers albums fall into all different categories–bands that try to ape the original exactly, bands that mess around with the original, and band who take the songs and make them their own.  In this case Nada Surf takes all of these songs and makes them sound just like Nada Surf songs.  Sometimes, they make them sound unlike the original and give them specific Nada Surfisms.

I didn’t know all of the songs on this record.  In fact, I knew very few of them (which is a pretty unusual way to run a  covers record, no?  This falls into the “introduce your fans to songs you love category).

I knew “Enjoy the Silence” (Depeche Mode) which is incredibly different.  Obviously, the original is synthy, but while Nada Surf keep it dark, they add a bit of jangly chords and change the way some of the verses end (the way they do “and forgettable” is so intriguing).  Even the ba bas at the end transform the whole nature of the song.  “Love Goes On!” (The Go-Betweens) is a song I knew a little and Nada Surf sounds an awful lot like the original (but I like the way they make the chorus even bigger).   “Love and Anger” (Kate Bush) is similar to the original but with that Nada Surf twist.  It’s not big and epic and Matthew Caws doesn’t try to hit her notes (he does have a high voice though), but it’s a gorgeous rendition.  “Question” (Moody Blues) is probably the most famous song on the disc.  Nada Surf rocks the song pretty hard.  The pick up the tempo, but slow it down just right for the slow part.  It’s quite faithful, without being in any way proggy.

The rest of the songs I didn’t know.  And some of the bands I’ve never heard of (!).  “Electrocution” (Bill Fox) opens the records and while I don’t know if it’s any different, it could be a great original jangly pop song from Nada Surf.   “Janine” (Arthur Russell) is only a minute long. It’s a pretty, delicate acoustic guitar song.  “You Were So Warm” (Dwight Twilley).  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Dwight Twilley song, so I have no idea how this compares, but I like the way the last long of “Janine” is the chorus to this song.  I rather assume the original is not as poppy as this (but I don’t know Twilley, so why do I think that?–Turns out I was entirely wrong, the original sounds an awful lot like this version).

“The Agony of Laffitte” (Spoon).  I know Spoon, but not this song.  I can imagine how Spoon performed it, and I imagine that Nada Surf have smoothed the song out and made it prettier and slightly less dramatic.  “Bye Bye Beauté” (Coralie Clément) is sung in French. I’ve never heard of the original performer.  I don’t know how the original sounds, but this could easily be a Nada Surf song (they have done songs in French before) and the harmonies are beautiful.  Speaking of French, the also do “Evolución” (Mercromina) in French (“ev-oh-loo-see-own” is much more fun to sing than “ev-oh-loo-shun”).  This song starts out slow with a cello stating the melody.  It then turns into a dark acoustic guitar song, minor key and tension-filled.  Vocals don’t come in until a minute and a half in (the song is 5 minutes).  I’m not sure what the song is about, but even the catchy chorus is kinda dark.

“Bright Side” (Soft Pack).  Soft Pack is another band I’ve never heard of.  This song is a fun almost punk track–fast and catchy with simple lyrics a fun chorus (and ahhh backing vocals).  The disc ends with “I Remembered What I Was Going to Say” (The Silly Pillows) another band I’ve never heard of.  It is played on prepared piano in a waltz style.  Perhaps unexpectedly, it has no words.  It’s a nice capper to the album

Incidentally, the cover is a wonder line drawing that is fun to stare at and the liner notes (which would be much much easier to read on vinyl) are just jam packed with information about the original artists.

[READ: September 18, 2012] “Madame Lazarus”

Another story with a dog.  This one begins in a rather amusing manner.  An older gay man has just received a small terrier as a present from his younger lover, James.  The narrator is worried about his boyfriend staying around (he is so young and beautiful, while the narrator, who has just retired, is getting older and older).  The narrator doesn’t like the dog, but decides it will be one more thing to tie him to the James, so he decides to keep her.  He names her Cordelia.

The story is set in Paris, and the older man walks the dog around the city.  But mostly he thinks about his age and his past.  He says that anyone his age is amazed that he survived the Nazis much less lived to be an old man. He also thinks of his ex-wife, Simone, whom he meets for lunch from time to time.

The story seems like a sweet story of age and love, lost love, but love nonetheless.  But then the flashback introduces some darker moments. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-Plays Covers on World Cafe (May 13, 2010).

I didn’t even know that Nada Surf had released a covers album (sometimes things slip through the cracks), but when NPR previewed their new song, I learned that they played some covers for World Cafe (not downloadable, sadly) to promote the album. 

So I’m going to be investigating that covers album shortly.  In the meantime, we get this very enjoyable four-song set (three covers and one of their own tracks). 

The band chats with David Dye briefly (about 5 minutes) before busting into the songs (a wonderful explanation of Bill Fox and a mention of reading about him in The Believer).  Their own track is “Whose Authority” one of their many wonderful songs.

The three covers are “Love Goes On” (by the Go-Betweens), “Enjoy the Silence” (by Depeche Mode) and “Electrocution” (by Bill Fox).  I didn’t recognize the first song until the Ba-ba-ba chorus kicked in, although I admit I’m not terribly familiar with it.  Similarly, the final song by Bill Fox is very obscure (as is Fox himself).  Both of these two songs are played with jangly guitars and are poppy and quite enjoyable.

The Depeche Mode song is the one that I already really knew well.  And boy do they make it their own.  They turn it from a somber dirge (catchy but somber) into a more upbeat almost poppy folk song.  It will probably be a polarizing cover (if anyone cares enough about Nada Surf to listen) and while I don’t think it’s as good as the original, it works so well in the context of a Nada Surf show, that it’ hard to argue with it.

Nada Surf is one of the great unsung bands and it’s hard to believe they aren’t more successful.

[READ: October 21, 2011] Mission Street Food

With Lucky Peach, McSweeney’s entered into the world of food publishing.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Lucky Peach.  But when I received Mission Street Food, I was no longer in the frame of mind to get excited to read this book, which, as the subtitle says, promises recipes and ideas.  And when I first flipped through it, I got to the recipes pages and said, well, when will I ever read this?

Then one night recently I couldn’t sleep and Mission Street Food was there, so I read the Preface.  And Anthony Myint has a great writing style, a great flair for telling a story and a wonderful story to tell.  Needless  to say, I read almost the whole first section before falling asleep.  And I was excited to tackle the rest of the book.

I hate to sound like I think that McSweeney’s has changed the way food book publishing is done, because that would be unfair.  I don’t read food publishing as a rule.  I can’t even enjoy looking in my wife’s cooking magazines.  Seeing names of foods and recipes for preparing them just doesn’t do anything for me.  But maybe the narrative of those books is more interesting than I give them credit.  Maybe I should sit down with another foodie book and see what it’s all about. (more…)

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jpod.jpgSOUNDTRACK: SQUEEZE-Singles 45s and Under (1982).

squeeze.jpgThis record came out in 1982. When I was in college in the late 80s, we used to joke that every freshman was issued a copy of Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits, because it was played virtually every day by someone. It seemed that Squeeze’s Greatest Hits may have been issued as an alternate. I never really thought much of this record back then. I enjoyed it, especially “Pulling Mussels From a Shell,” but I never really considered the quality of the record. Since then I learned that Difford and Tilbrook are up there with Lennon and McCartney and Jagger and Richards, or, if not that grand, at least with Forster and McLennon of the Go Betweens. So I grabbed this CD to play at a party and gave it some scrutiny, and I have to say it is a terrific album. I know for a Greatest Hits, it should be, but man, they can write songs that are stories, or observational or even funny and yet not sound twee or noveltyish. (more…)

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