Tuesday, 14 July 2015

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Now That's What I Call Music 14







Track Listing:  Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart (Marc Almond Featuring Gene Pitney)/Two Hearts (Phil Collins)/Stop! (Erasure)/Help!(Bananarama/Lananeeneenoonoo)/Looking For Linda (Hue And Cry)/Fine Time (Yazz)/Four Letter Word (Kim Wilde)/Stop (Sam Brown)/You Got It (Roy Orbison)/She Drives Me Crazy (Fine Young Cannibals)/Need You Tonight (INXS)/Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again) (Status Quo)/Big Area (Then Jericho)/The Last Of The Famous International Playboys (Morrissey)/Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison)/Belfast Child (Simple Minds)/Buffalo Stance (Neneh Cherry)/Good Life (Inner City)/Hey Music Lover (S'Express)/Blow The House Down (Living In A Box)/Promised Land (The Style Council)/Respect (Adeva)/Wild Thing (Tone Loc)/I Live For Your Love (Natalie Cole)/First Time (Robin Beck)/Straight Up (Paula Abdul)/I Only Wanna Be With You (Samantha Fox)/Be My Twin (Brother Beyond)/Love Like A River (Brother Beyond)/All She Wants Is (Duran Duran)/Tracie (Level 42)/Love Changes Everything (Michael Ball)


"In the moments that followed the withdrawal of one wave of history you could see, if you chose to look, a brief glimpse of the undercurrents at work in the late twentieth century." John Higgs, The KLF, pg. 211


This is the inaugural posting on Then Play Long of an irregular series - albums that would have been number one but for the fact that they were various artists albums.  At some point in 1988 enough music industry people (Stock, Aitken and Waterman being three) complained that their artists were not getting a fair chance at the top because of the omnipresent nature of the Now and Hits compilations.  Rick Astley should have gotten to the top with his second album; Sade would have; and so on.  And so the official chart began a separate chart for such compilations; on the NME chart, though, the rule didn't apply and this album was there at the top for a week in April.

Because of the "unofficial" quality of this, I feel free (well, I always do, that's obvious) to mention a few other albums as well, and to cherrypick from The Hits Album 10, too - so this covers roughly the spring of '89, as that came out in June...

....which brings me to my last semester at Ryerson, a hectic and not always unpleasant time.  For reasons I still don't understand, I was given the job of the editorial page on The Ryersonian as the person who first had it wasn't opinionated enough.  I tried to be serious with my opinions while pleasing the actual editor and head of Journalism, while running completely inane person-on-the-street questions underneath.  It wasn't exactly perfect, but our edition never missed a deadline, and the tv installed up in the corner of the composing room (so we could follow the Dubin enquiry into athlete doping after Ben Johnson) was always turned on to MuchMusic anyway, our deadline on Tuesday being heralded by the country part of the program schedule, Outlaws & Heroes.  It was stressful but good; I wrote poetry on the side that was okay now that I think about it, and some of it was published in the White Wall Review.  If I focused on the present - this sentence, that essay, that exam, this poem, that seat - I was fine.  But there is only so much commuting and writing anyone can do, and I graduated with no real goal or ambition.  (I felt alone in this respect, as you'll see.)  My health was so bad I had to get iron pills that spring and as I can't swallow pills, I had the, uh, "fun" of smashing them up and eating them on toast with strawberry jam or (a better method) smashing them up and eating them quickly via ice cream.  Anaemia is what I was fighting, though a general lassitude was another.  I went to our graduation dinner at a fancy hotel by the lake and as I was a vegetarian at the time, I got...a plate of fruit.*  For dinner.  It was most embarrassing, and I didn't go to my graduation ceremony as my father wouldn't get to see me graduate, and my mom isn't much for ceremonies, anyhow.

In the meantime, the world of music was changing; even I could see that.  The brief glimpse that Higgs talks about he dates at 1991, but for me it starts earlier (maybe being a poetical half-exhausted opinionated outsider helped).  Decades tend to speed up as they go, but the 80s was just go-go-go for so long that by '89 it was disintegrating before my eyes, the 90s were already here, save for the calendar.  I wasn't sure about the 90s, but then time itself - so regimented for so long - began to take on a different and horrible dimensions.  I was ill, pale, in need of good cheer, and music had to rise up to help me...

...and so to Now 14...

...in the figurative diner where I have had my portobello burger and onion rings and shake and now am having my tin roof sundae** and looking over the songs here...some I have done before, or will do, and by 1989 standards there are some I know and some I don't...to make things easy, all hopped up on the sundae as I am, I'm going to categorize: 

Cover Versions

"Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart"- The bracing dramatic New England blizzard that is Gene Pitney finally gets to number one, courtesy of fan Marc Almond, whose warm and equally melodramatic voice make this declaration of love - from blues and grays to scarlets - quite stunning.  Pitney had a hit with it back in 1967 and its confiding tone - it's like an aria, really - meant he recorded it in Italian, where its title in English is "You Don't Know, Man."  And that is how bold it is - out of the darkness comes light, out of pain comes blessed relief.  I didn't hear this at the time, alas, but how good is it to hear Almond's proclaiming and then hear Pitney's voice - there hasn't been anyone quite like him since, and I doubt there will be. 

"Help!" - This was the Comic Relief single in February, long before the public were requested to wear deely-boppers (I think) and DJs exhausted themselves one way or another to raise money.  It's Bananarama and Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Kathy Burke together to make up Lananeeneenoonoo and it works as Bananarama play it straight and the others are what's missing - i.e. they are John Lennon making fun of the song and wouldn't he have loved it?  (McCartney's recent quotes about The Beatles, amongst many other things, makes me think he would.  Also, Paul, shut up and play the bloody bass.)

"Promised Land" - Paul Weller & Co. didn't do that many cover versions, but this is Chicago House DJ/producer Joe Smooth's song and it's done with mmmmmmmmmmmmlllllllaaaah flair and sincerity, the joy and optimism here is genuine, but their label didn't think anyone would want a Style Council album that was all House-style songs, and it was scrapped and the soulcialists broke up soon after.  Modernism:  A New Decade didn't see the light until the late 90s, by which time Weller had probably become mates with Noel Gallagher (maybe later?) and he really should do a dance album now, shouldn't he?  The message of this song is timeless, he might do it again... 

"Respect" - Or, you thought it couldn't be done, but this is a great House version of the Otis Redding & Aretha Franklin song. Patricia Daniels plays with the words, woooooo-woo-woo-woos them, makes the song her own, darlings.  "Come on and respect me when I'm cleaning, come on and respect me when I'm cooking" she sings, and with her "Respect ME respect MEE AY AY" and the house piano dancing all over the song with her, it is a classic.  Daniels came out of her church choir to the world of house, as did someone else I'll be getting to soon...

"I Only Wanna Be With You" has to be one of the least necessary cover versions of all time; even by her not-very-high standards, it's only so-so.  That Dusty Springfield herself was working with the Pet Shop Boys and was known to a whole new generation of fans was a good thing.  This, uh, not so much.  Even The Tourists are better than this, and I'm saying that as someone who likes the Eurythmics a lot more.


Soulcialism And Its Discontents

"Looking For Linda" - Hue and Cry do Level 42 better than Level 42 shock!  Possibly the only song to mention Paisley, this is soulcialism done right - focus on the particular, not the general.  Linda and the narrator meet on the train, and the narration is worthy of Henry Green - there's romance, drinking, running away from a man, and constant longing.  Musically it's jazzy and lovely and the whole song is very fine. 

"She Drives Me Crazy" has already been discussed over here; suffice it to say there are only a few bands who did the veni, vidi and vici thing, and Fine Young Cannibals was one such band.  If only more could do that.

"Blow The House Down" - Whenever I hear Living In A Box I am reminded that the late Bobby Womack covered their song "Living In A Box" and I would rather hear him doing this song than them.  Still soulcialist, but with lyrics like "We have got the power to build the highest tower/Standing with our feet on the ground" - this is the tower, I guess, of righteousness that will blow the house (of Parliament?) down.  I am not sure this kind of big-lunged bluster (complete with "rock guitar solo") is going to work after the Second Summer of Love, and it was not really a tower that helped to end a particular woman's career as PM, as we shall see....

"Love Like A River" - Climie Fisher's last hit, and recognizably them without otherwise being particularly good or bad.  This is the sort of thing that is about love being like water, saving the narrator from living in a desert, etc.  It's all very Magic 105.4 brunch background music on a Sunday, but nothing else, and I'm not even sure it's remembered outside of the Climie Fisher fandom. 

"Tracie" - In which Level 42 aren't just missing Tracie but are also missing Boon and Phil Gould, so this sounds like a diet version of Level 42, lacking that vital something - a song? - and just skirting around this loss and never really getting down into a genuine feeling.  Which is a shame as Tracie was a real person.  Guitarist Alan Murphy (who had been in Go West) joined the band in '88, died of AIDS in late '89, which is of course far worse than this being a meh single. 


Good Morning Radio One

"Two Hearts" - In which you can have Lamont Dozier help write a song and it's only bearable because of him.  From the movie Buster, where a criminal's life is whitewashed because it's really about Buster's relationship with his wife, and not so much about the crime.  Even in this light, Phil Collins told Charles and Diana not to attend the premiere of it as it is about the Great Train Robbery, which in some quarters is the Worst Thing That Ever Happened, Short Of WWII.  In 1988 terms, at least.  But the song is bright and breezy, a pastiche that works because of Dozier.   

"Stop!" - Oh the multicolored and flashing and almost overly-awake world of Erasure!  And, uh, confusing too - I mean there's Andy Bell talking about "we'll be together again" and how no one is going to separate him and his Other, but then the chorus is all about how others want them to slow down and be cautious.  Don't jump before you look say these faceless people, but the narrator and his Other are never going to be separated, and that "again" means maybe they were before?  Why do I think this is some lost song from a Jane Austen musical?  A very busy song, and one that, despite its cheer (and the odd echo of "And Then He Kissed Me" in the verses) is all about defiance of the worrybots.

"You Got It" - The return of Gene Pitney was within the mourning period for Orbison, a dry Texas plain hiding riches and depths.  It is too bad that Orbison is singing on what is essentially a tailor-made ELO record here (you can hear Jeff Lynne in the background), putting a limit on this song, which if produced differently could have been as dramatic as Pitney's song is, really.  (And then on the title track "Mystery Girl" he's supposed to be Bono.  I'm sure it's a fine album if you can ignore all these things, but come on, Orbison deserved better than that.)  The Traveling Wilburys are on the TPL schedule, and how well do I remember my Reporting teacher pausing to listen to Roy's part on their singles, when the videos was being shown on MuchMusic.  He always smiled, and I do the same.

"Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again)" - Status Quo are one of those groups beloved in the UK but unknown in North America, so I didn't hear this at the time and apart from its odd highland-fling parts thrown in I am not really sure what makes it different from any other uptempo single by them.  This was later adapted as "Come On You Reds" in the 90s for Manchester United.  The original seems to be about a man who thinks he can leave someone but really can't - it is all false bluster, but deep down he's sad.  A cheery song about misery...

"Big Area"- Gives the impression that something of importance is going to happen, but besides the cheekbones of one Mark Shaw I am not really sure there is much to admire here. "Living far beyond my means, do you know how that feels?" he sings, and the big area is apparently somewhere inside him - his heart, his mind, his soul, his liver?  I am still not sure.

"Every Rose Has Its Thorn"- The US Christmas number one, if that counts for anything.  Power ballad by the numbers, but not that bad, all things considered.  I'm not sure why it is that cowboys always sing sad songs, but they sure do, and even hair metallers have to slow down sometimes and talk about how love hurts.  Bret Michaels wrote this after he talked with his girlfriend on the phone (he was calling from a laundromat) and he had been crushed as he heard another man's voice in the background while talking with her.  Yes, even glam metal bands do their own laundry, folks. 

"First Time" - This is a song so devoid of anything close to true feeling that of course it was used as a commercial for Coca-Cola, which then propelled this to number one.  I am sure Robin Beck was happy about this, but it's no "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" - there has been no lasting impact here, though she is still out there performing to this day.  Doing work that is strictly commercial is not a terrible thing per se, but nowadays songs themselves stand unaltered, unlike the 80s, when a song was a mannequin to hang an ad on. 

"Be My Twin" - In which Brother Beyond work with Stephen Hague so it sounds like the Pet Shop Boys while still being a nice but kind of forgettable song, which is too bad - they are the anti-Bros, after all, and I want to like this a lot more than I do. 

"Love Changes Everything" will be dealt with along all the other songs on Aspects of Love.  Oh, you thought we were done with musicals?  Nope! 


What Becomes A Legend Most?

"Four Letter Word" - This section is all about daughters; not that I knew Kim Wilde was anyone's daughter in particular at the time, and I don't even think it was released as a single in North America.  But it is a fine ballad (written by father Marty and brother Ricky) about no, not that word, not that one either, but love.  "How can the love that she has be profane/And how can something that's so beautiful/Just Jeckyl and Hyde around?" she sings, and the divine love she had has fallen into the abyss, though this is as smooth as a river stone and Wilde's singing is quietly despairing and disappointed - she knows what love is about.

"Stop" - Also a daughter, though again at the time I didn't know Sam Brown at all - unlike Kim she seemed to come out of nowhere with this torchy ballad that is amazing - the whole thing works because of her voice and I think she almost cries at the end!  The horror of knowing "you're not the only one" in your Other's life is at the heart of this song, and Brown gets down into it, making the desperation and anguish leap out.   

"I Live For Your Love" is a Natalie Cole ballad - yes, I knew who her father was at the time - but this is soft and squishy and nice in a stuffed toy way.  She sings it really well and the song is on the brink of existential nothingness, but it's so sweet that you might not notice.  The narrator only lives for her Other's love and nothing else actually matters.  "I just can't go on anymore" she sings, smiling, "I hate to admit it." You never know with some songs, do you?

"Need You Tonight" - I've already mentioned how great Kick is over here, but this is one of those songs that sounds just as fresh today as it ever did; slinky, genuinely sexy, minimalist.  Eventually I will get to it over at Music Sounds Better With Two, where no doubt I will talk about how it segues into "Mediate" and another little bridge into the 90s is born.  However, I cannot mention one band from Australia without mentioning another:






In the whole story of 80s music - which of course is winding down here at TPL - I cannot let The Triffids go by unnoticed.  If I had more time I would talk about them altogether, but at some point I was alerted to them (I think it was an NME cover story on them that was so big it had to be stretched over two issues) and went and bought The Black Swan (the symbol of their hometown of Perth) and lost myself in it,  from the saturated colors on the cover to the vague understanding that this music was practically from the end of the Earth itself.***  Did I feel more grown-up and sophisticated just owning this?  You're damn right I did, and I did crush out a little (hey, I had a lot of catching up to do on that front) on singer-songwriter David McComb, one of the few men I've heard who are audibly handsome.  I think I found a previous album of theirs secondhand somewhere, but this was my favorite, and it is not as far as you'd think from a newish townhouse in a cul-de-sac where very little happened in Oakville to Perth, which I presumed was like Los Angeles but only on a tiny scale, or maybe more like Baltimore...a port city.

A place where sailors pass through, where restlessness sets in pretty early.  So many of the songs are about that fierce restlessness and accompanying lethargy ("Too Hot To Move, Too Hot To Think").  "Falling Over You" is the Triffids doing the Pet Shop Boys and making fun of Dire Straits (I think) at the same time and AAAAAAAAAAAAA is it good.  The first song mentions listening to the Hit Parade, and this album is a hit parade all on its own, from the sweet-and-sour pop of "Goodbye Little Boy" to the country ballad "New Year's Greetings" to the punk rock of "One Mechanic Town" - dammit it is good to hear Stephen Street produce some rock again - and there is a bluntness to McComb's language that evades irony and just goes straight for the physical, the tangible, again and again.  It must have been that restlessness that I picked up on, plus the small-town romanticism that was as fierce as The Smiths, but so so different...  

Oh I want to build a time machine!  I usually say this whenever I am lamenting that a particular artist didn't get to do something he or she was going to do, or to prevent something from happening that had a lasting influence on them.  In McComb's case I would go back to 1986, to somehow stop him from being in a car crash that would mess up his back and cause him so much misery.  (I would somehow make it that I could see The Triffids live, just as I would go back and see The Go-Betweens live.   If they ever did a double bill then oh who can build a time machine for me?)...

...the moods shift and continue, with the relief of "Good Fortune Rose" to the melodramatic "The Clown Prince" (their version of "Tears Of A Clown" by way of Tom Waits); and ends with the lovely but painful "Fairytale Love." Innocence and youth are remembered, idealism too, but where are they now?  "The black swan spread its wings and hissed lo! the night came on" McComb sings, and I am now aware (I wasn't then) that he wrote poetry.**** I also didn't know it at the time, but this was their last studio album; the wear and tear of being critically popular but unloved by the masses exhausted them, which is too bad (echoing what happened with The Go-Betweens, now that I think of it).  Still, who made an album with The Triffids as his band in 1986?  Bill Drummond, that's who - he got to know them as they toured supporting Echo And The Bunnymen.  (Another double bill worthy of a time machine.)       

R.I.P David McComb, 1962-1999.


"The Last Of The Famous International Playboys" - There is a definite being-down-with-the-lads element to Morrissey, and if those lads are criminals, well, what of it?  They dress sharp, they're nice to their mom and other harmless types - "they only kill their own" is the phrase here.  But "Dear hero in prison" leads to the narrator committing crimes so he can be just like his hero, and I somehow sense the worship here is real and not ironic.  He doesn't want to be evil!  But he wants to meet his hero, and day visits to prisons are so passe!  This song works because he means it, and it doesn't hurt that Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke are here, too.  Didn't he eventually meet one of the Krays? 

"Belfast Child" will be discussed in a future entry at TPL, which as you may have guessed already I'm going to write. 

"All She Wants Is" - In which Duran Duran, who actually regained some cool when they worked with Nile Rodgers back in '86, totally lose it with this song, which manages to be worse - or at least as bad - as "Hungry Like The Wolf."  Big Thing may well be an okay album Duranwise, but this song is just so...eeech...complete with a groaning female voice and a stop-start-stop rhythm that reminds me of nothing more than a traffic jam (this is diplomatically described as "aggressive" on wiki).  

Modern Fizz

"Fine Time" - Yazz slooooowwwwwws down here to a near crawl, in order to get across her misery and despair over being left alone.  They were together and she is still in love, but "everybody seems to tell you/that ain't no good for you/You say that I make you feel so blue" and a thousand girls in pubs, wine bars or just drinking at home nod and drink and feel her pain.  Yazz (aka Yasmin Evans) now sings gospel and is much happier than this song, which slinks along, Yazz so quiet there's a desperation behind the gloss.


1989:  The Year That Saved Music



I don't want to write too much about Raw Like Sushi, other than it's something that I listened to a lot at the time as a kind of older-sister-tells-how-it-is album - I mean, how with it is Neneh Cherry?  (And like the others [Wilde and Brown], I didn't know she was Don Cherry's daughter as my father wasn't a Don Cherry fan, so she came to me fresh, as she did for most folks I expect.) The album is vital and moving - after being in bands and working as a backing singer she finally gets her own thing going, which is still so hard for young women in the UK to do.  It could easily be called Love Vs. Money***** as almost every song is about that subject, about love's importance above selfishness and cheap self-regard.  Musically it's kind of dated (these things happen) and the first two songs are the best, which makes listening to the rest of the songs a bit of a letdown.  There will never be a day when "Buffalo Stance" isn't like a ray of sunshine ("harmolodic" she says, signifiying that she comes from jazz, and the zipping and twists and turns in the song are certainly jazz - hey people who think you don't like jazz, you're soaking in it!) and it sums up the whole album pretty well.

But then...

....comes "Manchild" and you can just hear the 90s opening a door gracefully, coming in and sitting down.  The white light illuminating the darkness on the cover of Now 14 may be from a mundane source, but this is something new, something that is shedding light from a divine place, a little scary and yet shamelessly from the heart as well.  Is this the future?  As tremendous as her singing on this song is, and her lyrics and compassion, it is the strings of Wil Malone that make this the stupefying thing that it is.  After that warmth and chill, the rest of the album is just one big recovery room of anger, lust and true love, not to mention motherhood and a strong sense of self-worth and endless honesty.  I was reading Jane Austen for the first time around now******, and while Austen's world is so different from Cherry's, there is that heroic quality to her that Austen's main characters have as well.  Cherry will not settle, and neither do they.       







It is a rare thing for me to feel, but Inner City for me are from Detroit (Kevin Saunderson) and Chicago (Paris Grey) and yet Big Fun (or as it's known in the UK, Paradise) is for me an album from some other dimension that us Earthlings are blessed to have.  I am that in love with it, and it touches me in a way nothing else here can, with few exceptions.  That Paris Grey, like Adeva, came from the church is one thing, but get your mind around this - it's just them.  She sings; he plays his various synths, and that's it.  She is in the front at all times, but the beats, the rhythms, the little noises and notes that appear...when something like this happens, I just have to sit down (or dance) in awe.  Is it house?  Techno?  Is this the spirit of Detroit itself, that indestructible no-matter-what city come to life?  It is all these things, but it is one big reason I got through 1989.  How could I not be cheered up by "Do You Love What You Feel" or sense a much bigger and better world through "Paradise" or "Inner City Theme"?  Or the New Pop "Good Life" with its Occupy London-predicting video?  The light at the end of the tunnel is what's on the cover of Now 14, but this was my light, absolutely, which is why I cannot write about it too much without...not crying...but feeling very moved.  That it all seems so effortless is the simplest way of saying it's a work of art.    


"Hey Music Lover" - How can you tell this is produced by Philip Glass?  Because it's really good and blissfully repetitive. Yes there are samples, hell yes you can dance to it, no there's no narrative, but it has an irresistible energy that is like the Ocean of Sound David Toop goes on about reaching out to you, taking you by the hand and skipping with you down the street.  Higher HIGHER HIGHER!!  Music itself comes out and says hey, it's a new day, y'wanna play? It is indeed wonderful.

"Wild Thing" - In which Tone Loc goes girl crazy, does the wild thing on a kitchen floor (ouch, her mom is there but forgives them - well phew) and ends up with a girl who is "good to go" but expects to get paid.  Oh Tone, are all girls the same to you?  Sexy in a way teenage boys think they're going to get all the ladies, but end up alone as they don't know how to be nonchalant and yet not a jerk.

"Straight Up" - Or, what the US danced to before Rhythm Nation appeared later in the year.  Abdul worked with Jackson, and this is as sharp and fierce as Jackson, without her plush sensuality.  New Jack Swing meets the girl group lyrics and yes, it still makes me dance.  Abdul's a dancer and choreographer first, so it's always on the beat. 


1989:   The Year That Saved Music Part Two

There are plenty of good songs (or at least songs I like) on The Hits Albums 10 - any album that starts with "Eternal Flame," "This Time I Know It's For Real" and "I Beg Your Pardon" by Kon Kan is going to get my attention, but there are three songs that stand out for me here...

"Edelweiss" was done by two Austrians who read The Manual (they actually met up with the KLF who had just finished writing it!) and it's a riot of hip hop aw-yeahs, disco, bitonal yodelling, ABBA being revised and God knows what else.  It starts with actual cow bells and goes into house piano and it's completely insane.  This is what "Doctorin' The Tardis" hath rendered, and the aforementioned Kon Kan are sober rationalists with a love story to tell (Canadian, so it's all very deadpan) in comparison.  The rise of the non-narrative song continues...

Now there are probably going to be some raised eyebrows out there, but may I suggest that the next album here is better than the debut by The Stone Roses?



The reason it's better for me is that this album, full of OMG the-world-is-going-to-end-any minute-now humor and nervousness, was simply a much better match for me as my time at Ryerson was ending.  The Roses seemed to be singing to themselves, but the Poppies (as they were called) seemed to be in a magical place where hip hop and rock actually met just as much as Run-D.M.C.were and it was like a big high-five all around.  "I'm freakin' and you couldn't care less" sings Clint Mansell, and that summed things up for me - I was freaking out about so much, but everyone - my fellow students included - were too busy freaking out themselves to notice.  The Stone Roses couldn't help me out with that, but "Can U Dig It?" and "Not Now James, We're Busy!" and especially the boss "Def Con One" could, and did.  As the Roses have been talked about so much, this album is still ignored, and was only in the charts for a few weeks, in comparison.  But as I understand things, they are back - with Mansell! - and that is good news.


And then there's only the album of the year...




Around this time I was reading not just Jane Austen but something called Classics Revisited by Kenneth Rexroth, a poet who had seemingly read everything and wrote short pieces about everyone from the Greeks and Romans on down.  For him a classic, no matter where it came from, was always surprisingly simple.  They spoke directly across the centuries about how life is, and that is what De La Soul do here.  I think I must have bought this at some point and listened to it constantly.  Why?  Because they were so evidently great that even in my enervated state, they could cheer me up, keep me guessing, and just plain amaze me.  Skits!  A French lesson turned into hip hop!  Suburban surrealism!  The DAISY age was one I truly wished to enter, and in listening and relistening to this album the DAISY******* age (DA Inner Sound, Y'all) came to life again and again.  (Et encore, if you like this album, you like jazz.  You're soaking in it!) There are too many moments and sounds and beats and samples to mention here, in part because this is that (dammit I want a time machine again) time when you could sample anything and get away with it, and this album is proof that with some sensitive ears and fearlessness, you can do something that was fresh in 1989 and will remain fresh for some time to come.  "Me, Myself and I" is what Hits 10 has, but literally everything on here is great and so detailed that you have to listen to it a lot just to absorb it all, just like jazz.  And it's wise, put together really well, and tickles your mind the way it should be tickled - with fun first, and then with the deeper joy that it exists in the first place.     

And so went my spring of tension, iron pills, final exams and making it through the graduation dinner with a sense of the absurd.  The time I longed to be at home and yet elsewhere (not England....clearly that wasn't to be), out of my lethargy and with the purpose and ambition so many people I knew had.  I had no idea about anything, hardly, and had to grieve at home, and look for music to help me regain some sense of self and perspective.  It would be melodramatic to say the music rose up to help me, but music does seem to do that - reach out to meet those who need it.  Or maybe those who need it are more sensitive to it?

That late spring I saw on a dark night, out of my bedroom window, a huge red aurora appear and disappear in a matter of minutes.  The silent whoosh of color was a warning of sorts (red sky at night, etc.) but I felt it meant that yes, there was going to be blood, but blood is life and life in the darkness goes on.  Music encouraged me (along with all my reading and writing) to go on, to continue...

Next up:  Liverpool, once more.     



*I would have been perfectly happy with some salad and macaroni & cheese, really - but vegetarians were barely understood back then.

**A tin roof sundae is vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce and lots of peanuts.  Basic, sure, but really good.

***In case you were wondering, I am going to be discussing a certain album from New Zealand in 1990 and will be even more excited by it, and yes the band are from Dunedin.

****There's a book of his poetry called Beautiful Waste and I would love to get a copy, but I don't know if it's available outside of Australia.

***** There is an album by The Dream with this title and it's really good.  

******Believe it or not, I was never taught any Austen books at White Oaks or Ryerson, and thus had to track them down and read them myself, just out of my own interest. 

*******In one of those coincidences that exists just to make me wonder if the Ocean of Sound is a real thing, the first name the Triffids had back when McComb & Co. were in high school was Daisy.  The Daisy age is reborn! 

2 comments:

apopfansdream said...

Superb piece. '89 was the year I left school and went to college. Ferociously hot summer and the greatest gig I've ever seen [The Cure at The RDS, Dublin]. Now 14 takes me back to a time of mock exams with respite in the form of Happy Mondays + The Shamen on St Patrick's Day. £5 for the ticket, £25 for an E. Unfortunately the version of New Sensation is chopped right at the end - "You're one of my kind". The wrong is righted on Now's Millennium series volume for 1988.

The Hits Album 10 is a blast too. A well-chosen selection.

Kit said...

But as I understand things, they are back - with Mansell! - and that is good news

News update: the reunion with Mansell was five shows in January 2005 - he hasn't been involved in any version of the former members collaborating since, and indeed all the others have now ceded the PWEI name to first-man-off-the-boat Graham Crabb, who is now touring with Mary Byker from Gay Bikers On Acid and three young metallers.