In a feature shamelessly “inspired” by The Times‘s Culture Vulture, British Expat brings you the above titled (subtitled “Things you should own, if they’re the sort of thing you might like…”).
This week we’re on to “D”. In true Civil Servant style, I have reneged on my promise to contribute something good this week. Well, not entirely reneged (I love that word), but changed my plan slightly…
I had intended to suggest that Dr “You can’t fight in here, this is the War Room…” Strangelove was something you might quite like to think about owning… However, I was rifling through my records the other day, as one does, and found something, as one does, that I hadn’t listened to in over a year, as one doesn’t. The annual Mercury Music Award is one of entertainment’s poorest offerings in my opinion. Does anyone actually like Portishead or Roni Size and Reprazent? Certainly not anyone I know. If you do, please get the hell away from this website, I want nothing to do with you. Mercury Rev, however, won the Award in 1998 with the absolutely gorgeous Deserter’s Songs. The baby of two blokes from the Catskill Mountains, NY (One of them’s called Grasshopper, and the other is, um…his friend – What? You want me to do some research? But that would spoil the spontaneity that you love so…), it picked up what was a fairly bleak year for music, and changed it into a fairly good year for music. They the Men.
Some of the lyrics are paint-by-numbers pants (“Holes/Dug by little moles…”), but the manner in which they are delivered means that you just don’t listen so much to what’s being said as to how it’s being said. The lead singer’s voice is fragile, made all the more so by the fact he seems to be singing falsetto for half the album. When you do sit and pay attention to the lyrics, they’re occasionally shockingly insightful (“You had to choose/A side to lose/And divide yourself in two…”). “Hudson Line”, one of the album’s finest, closes with the line “And I know it ain’t gonna last” repeated to fade. Unfortunately it doesn’t. Just under 50 minutes long, it’s one of the few records I own (and there’s a shedload of them. Well, a bedroom-load anyway.) that leaves me wanting more, but not to the extent that I feel cheated. There’s not many albums around that you can close your eyes and visualise; I don’t mean place yourself in the singer’s shoes, I mean actually visualise; everything the song conveys. All the songs that do that were made by Pink Floyd (AtomHeartMother – damn, I knew I forgot something for “A”), and no-one’s going to admit being a Floydie. Deserter’s Songs achieves that, and you should own a copy. You’ll have to ignore the unimpressive instrumental towards the end, but the 10 or so excellent tracks dull that particular pain.