The splendour of Felt

Den helt igennem trøstesløse Midlands-storby Birmingham’s musikalske gave til menneskeheden som sådan er hverken ELO, Black Sabbath eller Duran Duran, men derimod indiebandet Felt, der over ti år i 1980’erne udsendte ti albums og ti singler, først på Cherry Red, siden på Creation. Felt’s letvægts-guitarmusik kom aldrig i nærheden af et egentligt gennembrud, men takket være Felt’s  insisterende udgivelser, for det meste frontet af en snakkesyngende sangstemme, som prøvede bandleader Lawrence at imitere Tom Verlaine der imiterede Lou Reed, lykkedes det alligevel fortjent bandet at skabe sig et navn på den engelske musikscene. Men så, lige da Felt begyndte at dufte en smule af succes, opløste  überekcentriske Lawrence bandet og skyndte sig videre afsted mod nye og mere obskure projekter. I dag udsendes Felt’s første fem albums i remastrede udgaver, og nu bandets mesteralbum Forever Breathes the Lonely Word (1986) af gode kronologiske grunde ikke er iblandt dem, skal herfra specielt lyde en anbefaling til at investere i minialbummet The Splendor of Fear (1984), der kan noget helt stemningsfuldt specielt i den æstetiske guitarflugt mellem de to guitarister/sangskrivere Maurice Deebank og Lawrence. Her ‘The Stagnant Pool’, pladens ubestridte kongenummer med den seks minutters svævende instrumental-outro, der er alle pengene værd…

It’s just that I’ve been losing so long…

Oklahoma, Texas’ fremgangsrige St. Vincent har både tiden med sig og musikken i sig, men har hun nogensinde begået noget bedre end denne 2007-cover af Nico’s ‘These Days’, skrevet af den unge Jackson Browne og oprindeligt udgivet på Nico’s solodebut Chelsea Girls (1967)?! Optaget i Brooklyn med Manhattan Bridge bag sig formår St. Vincent at synge og spille Nico’s sang til noget så langt stærkere, end blot at være endnu en respektfuld men forglemmelig hyldest til originalen…

Mark E. og The Smiths

– Any time any band did something that sounded like the Fall, it would infuriate him. He was the fiercest Mancunian that I have ever come to know, and there are a lot of them. Morrissey was a massive Fall fan before the Smiths, and used to write him fawning fan letters, which we have in our house, signed. But the Smiths signed to Rough Trade, and Rough Trade obviously put everything they had into the Smiths, which we can see now was worthwhile. And Mark felt kicked to the curb. I remember we were all playing a gig in Manchester, and the smoke alarm went off in the hotel. I was quite panicked. I saw Morrissey, and asked if he’d seen Mark, and he said: “Yeah, he’s upstairs burning.” I never spoke to him again after that.

Brix Smith, The Fall’s Mark. E. Smith’s ex,  om Morrissey og ham.

Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?

Dags dato 1975, at David Bowie udsender plastic soul-singlen ‘Young Americans’ som forløber for albummet af samme navn, der skal komme to uger senere. Men Amerika, og visse dele af Europas TV-seere, er allerede bekendt med den karakteristiske sang. Ialfald de som den 5. december 1974 har set en radmager og mentalt noget uregelmæssig Bowie gæste The Dick Cavett Show, hvor han, udover at medvirke i et uforløst interview, spiller coveret ‘Footstompin’, allerede kendte ‘1984’ og så denne dugfriske, endnu uudgivne sang med sit nye soulband og en på dagen klædeligt hæs stemme…

Introducing…U.S. Girls!

Traditionelt var 4AD Records et pladeselskab for den mørkere og/eller mere eksperimenterende del af den alternative postpunk-scene. Men tid kan ændre alt og her kommer amerikansk-canadiske U.S. Girls (AKA Meghan Remy) med klar, melodiøs 4AD-singalong. U.S. Girls har tidligere bevæget sig inden for et abstrakt kunstnerisk og nærmest lofi-glorificerende DIY-udtryk, men på projektets andet album på 4AD, den netop udsendte In A Poem Limited, jonglerer U.S. Girls uden hæmmende respekt med moderne popformer og lyder på følgende track nærmest som en blinkende Blondie-satellit. Ikke nogen dårlig ting, forståes…

Brev fra Nicolai

I dag er det ét år siden Nicolai Munch-Hansen pludseligt døde. Kun tre måneder tidligere udsendte han sin mesterplade Det Flimrende Lys Over Brabrand Sø,  hvor Nicolais fritvoksende og fintfølende musik blev sat op mod poet Peter Laugesens mesterlige ord. Albummet blev siden kåret som Årets Danske Jazzudgivelse. Hørt herfra er det en positiv misforståelse, for selvom Nicolai elskede sin jazz og var et markant navn indenfor genren, så er Det Flimrende Lys Over Brabrand Sø i den grad en nysgerrigt søgende rockplade. Herfra tanker til dejlige Nicolai på et lydspor af Steen Jørgensen og Kira Skov, der synger om at drikke måneskin…

De mistede den

Et band der mistede den endnu mere undervejs end vel selv U2 er skotske Simple Minds, som i start-80’erne havde godt et greb om musik og form, det gør decideret ondt at tænke på i dag hvor dybt de faldt. Glasgowbandets unge drøm var af europæisk art, musikken stod moderne kontinental med en dunkende teknologisk puls af fremtidsmuligheder og livslyst. Mesterpladerne er Empires and Dance (1980) Sons and Feacination/Sister Feelings Call (1981) og New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) (1982), og hvis bandets monumentale formdyk har bragt én god ting med sig, så er det, at disse i dag kan købes i originale vinyleksemplarer for næsten ingen penge. Ja, det er hvad der sker med bagkataloget når et bandnavn trækkes ned i sølet. Simple Minds spiller i aften show i Vega i København. Koncerten består ifølge foromtalen af tre afdelinger; først et set med numre fra bandets helt nye album Walk Between Worlds – har hørt singlen derfra, som ikke kan noget – så et set med ‘de store klassikere’ og tilsidst – åh, gud! – et live-interview på scenen. Det ville ikke være så trist, hvis ikke de havde været vildt gode engang.  anderledes skarpe var Simple Minds i 1980…

Svensk ensomhed deluxe

Fra Göteborg kommer 25-årige Sarah Klang med sit netop udgivne debutalbum Love in the Milky Way på en tsunami af svensk hype, airplay og kritikerroser. Med en mægtig speciel stemme, der uden besvær favner de store tab og tunge sandheder i livet, som hendes sange oftest kaster sig ud for at drukne i. Sarah Klang sættes i begejstrede svenske anmeldelser i musikalsk ledtog med navne som Cat Power, Lana Del Rey, David Lynch/Twin Peaks, Weeping Willows og The Cardigans. Det sidste her bare nævnt for at indikere hvilken slags traditionsstolt svensk americana hun skyder ud med. Specielt Cardigans-referencen synes relevant bare hørt udfra følgende albumtracks efterårsgyldne popmelodi…

The only song we know

Så engelske The Charlatans første gang de spillede i Danmark, en mørk aften i Pumpehuset, København í forrige årtusinde. Vi var mest kommet for at høre deres musikalske claim to fame, andensinglen ‘The Only One I Know’, der i slipstrømmen på The Stone Roses’ gennembrud havde skaffet West Midlands-bandet et hit og en karriere på Madchester-bølgen. ‘The Only One I Know’ var hverken nogen personlig eller stor sang, men på enkel vis demonstrerede den hvad omkring Stone Roses-formlen var så betagende. Den aften i Pumpehuset spillede The Charlatans nu ikke ‘The Only One I Know’, men derimod en masse andet fra bandets i England ofte roste, dog sært ansigtsløse albums. Til sidst mistede vi tålmodighed med sanger Tim Burgess og holdt op med at lytte. Som frontmand lignede han ellers lidt en Echo & The Bunnymen-agtig stjernefigur, men desværre lød han som alt andet end det. For uden hverken stor musik eller kommunikerende nødvendighed forblev han en anonym posterboy for denne ecstasy-generationens rockbrigade. Bandet bag ham spillede ellers ok solidt, men deres hammondorgel-sound kørte også træt, ikke mindst fordi sange så ofte kun var halvfærdige rifs med Manchester-røgelse ovenpå. I aften spiller The Charlatans i Lille Vega, og der er ‘The Only One I Know’ naturligvis tilbage på setlisten. Men istedet for at satse endnu en aften på dette så uforpligtende band, hvorfor så ikke bare få sangen her?! Denne optagelse er fra maj 1990 på The Ritz i Manchester…

En ABBA-sang om…død?!

Har netop på Vice læst nogle tankevækkende gode betragtninger om livet i almindelighed og ABBA’s popperfektionsdiamant ‘Dancing Queen’ i særdeleshed. Tror at Angus Harrison’s velskrevne ord også vil kunne få denne blogs læsere til at høre  den svenske evergreen på en ny, frisk måde…

Why Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ Is the Saddest Record Ever Made
You thought it was just a cheesy song that your great-aunt fell over to at your cousin’s wedding, didn’t you? You were wrong.

(This article originally appeared on THUMP)

Can you remember where you were when you first heard “Dancing Queen”? The chances are it was at a wedding reception, or a 40th birthday party; you were probably five. It was probably mixed in the air with the croaking voices of older relatives pouring down on you, as you ran between their fat, pink legs in a church hall. You probably had a fistful of Wotsits in your possession. You were probably wearing a waistcoat. This is where “Dancing Queen” has made its home. ITV specials, Pierce Brosnan, TOTP2, your nan, buffets, desert island discs, Alan Partridge, Peter Kay routines and karaoke machines.

This is wrong. Because “Dancing Queen” is the saddest record ever made.

In order for this exercise to work, I’m going to have to ask you to forget everything you think you know about ABBA. Forget the cheese and the chintz. Forget the Eurovision song contest. Sit back in as close to silent as you can achieve in your current surroundings, and luxuriate on this:

First things first: what a record. In a conversation with THUMP that we stupidly didn’t record, the ever-enlightened DJ Harvey once told us he believes “Dancing Queen” is the greatest disco record ever made, and it’s hard to disagree. It’s a song of such high-quality, a song so beloved, it’s been nearly entirely ruined by the weight of it legacy. But even then it triumphs. That initial glissando, the endless, breathless, pirouettes in your ears. The tepid beat – barely faster than your heartbeat – the choral whirls and clambering strings. It’s perfect. But you already knew that.

The basic point – the important point – here is this: you have spent your entire life believing “Dancing Queen” is a song about a 17-year-old girl, dancing. And to a point, it is. Yet, have you ever thought about the song’s vantage point?

You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen
Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene, digging the Dancing Queen

Make no mistake. This song is about the dancing queen, but it is most definitely not sung by her. Herein lies the tragedy. Our narrator has realised that she is no longer the Dancing Queen. She is no longer young, no longer sweet, no longer 17. Now, instead, she watches from the bar; the dancefloor a maelstrom of lost faith, memories and missed opportunities. She was once 17, and as such was totally oblivious that the moment would ever end.

“Dancing Queen” is a song about this end. Or at least, edging ever closer towards it. It is a song that respects the truth that the passing of time only moves in one direction. That the second after the greatest moment of your life, it is as far behind you as it will be forever. Fuck your inner child, fuck “you’re only as young as the woman you feel”. You are young once, it happens, and then the rest is a slow slide towards something both inevitable and unknown. Of course, that’s not to say that the slide into adulthood can’t be a rich and bountiful experience. For many, youth is an uncomfortable project, full of Muse albums and matted pubes, and as such something they are glad to watch turn to ash over their shoulder. That’s fine, I get that. There are, however, a large percentage of people who only make sense when they are young. People who find a home away from home in the shimmering reaches of nightclubs.

A lot of cynics would have you believe that nightclubs are only good for trying to get off with people, or that those who purport to love them are merely extending some juvenile urge to deny “the real world”. Sadly, for all their wisdom, the truth is they don’t understand the confidence, the place, many people find when they go out – and just how out of place they can feel once those halcyon days are over. As soon as that moment passes – that moment when they were walking on air through the thick, black promise of the night – as soon as the sun starts to come up on the rest of their lives, they are destined to spend forever stewing on what has ended, or simply pretending it hasn’t.

To every wrong-side of 30 year-old still stubbing cigarettes out on coffee tables at 6 the next morning, everyone who has ever spent entire evenings listening to their terrible teenage CD collection, every aching back on a premature night-bus home: this one’s for you. This is what it’s all about. Watching the Dancing Queen flood the floor with light, a floor you used to own but now creaks under other feet. It’s a beautiful scene, sure, but also an inescapably sad one. Yes, it sounds happy, but that’s the point. The thick melancholy in every piano chord, the unmistakable, immediately singable nature of the chorus are all part of its power. Sometimes when I listen to “Dancing Queen”, around the 2:57 mark, I’m sure I can even hear someone scream. This isn’t joy. This is agony.

ABBA have been fucking depressing on many other occasions. They basically live-blogged their respective divorces via disco ballads. “Slipping Through My Fingers” captures, with devastating effect, the slow trickle of child ageing away from their parent. “The Day Before You Came” details the oblivious mundane existence that precedes a life-changing encounter. And “S.O.S.” –your Aunty Mary’s favourite – horrifically masters the point of total disembodiment from somebody you thought you’d spend forever with. Pretty much everything they have ever recorded is imbued with a wistfulness. A constant interplay between pop sensibility and twisted mentality.

Yet, for my money, none of their hits come anywhere close to “Dancing Queen” in the longing stakes. It is a song that says the best has been. The best now belongs to somebody else. The best you can now do is watch the best and remember when you were the best. It’s a song for the moment when the value of your memories outweigh the value of your ambitions. “Dancing Queen”, a song now most commonly preceded by a function DJ slurring the words “get yer dancing shoes on” into a low quality microphone or belted at West End audiences, is in fact a song about watching the party from the other side of the glass, knowing you’ll never be on the list again.

“Dancing Queen” is a song about death.

© Angus Harrison

Ingen andre

Men hvordan lyder Françoise Hardy i dag?! Anderledes nedtonet og nærmest vinterligt farveløs. Ialfald at dømme udfra hendes nye single, der blev udsendt fredag. ‘La Large’ er skrevet af La Grande Sophie og en forløber for Personne d’autre, Hardy’s 28. album, som udsendes til april…

We’re the fucking pigs…

Du var der. Jeg var der. Vi var der vel alle. Lørdag aften 1. juli 1995 på Roskilde Festival, da London’s Suede – da højaktuelle med mesteralbummet Dog Man Star – gik på Arena og spillede et veritabelt amfetaminbrag af en full-on-heftig-koncert. Uvist af hvilken grund lykkedes det nogen at optage showet på film, så vi nu kan tænde behørigt op under denne lørdag aften. Det glemmes desværre oftest hvor gode og saliggørende Suede var, før det i første omgang gik galt og ned for dem. Skru op og enjoy!

Introducing The Band (Intro)
This Hollywood Life
We Are The Pigs
Metal Mickey
Killing of a Flashboy
Animal Nitrate
The Wild Ones
The 2 of Us
The Drowners
Heroine
The Asphalt World
So Young
Together
New Generation
Daddy’s Speeding
+ + +
Still Life
My Dark Star

Jens Unmacks officielle weblog