Thursday, February 28, 2008

kiss me kiss me kiss me - the cure

from the first throbbing chords and howling guitars 'kiss me kiss me kiss me' sets my nerves on edge; this 'kiss' is not nice and pleasant and soft and warm, its intense and hungry and draining and demanding your concentration, near drowning you in despair one minute, bringing you to intense highs the next. its a schizophrenic masterpiece, always too much and not nearly enough, the closest description of obsession and torment as maybe committed to music; smith sings 'I never wanted any of this I wish you were dead' and you wonder what you have let yourself in for.

a delight definitely despite the less than joyful titles such as 'torture', 'if only tonight we could sleep' and 'the snakepit'. after the hate of 'kiss', 'catch' is laconic and wistful. 'torture' is all melodrama, gothic bass and high chiming melodies whilst Robert Smith sings like a Poe story - but despite the relentless gloom ('hanging like this, like a vampire bat') the melody is ridiculously catchy and I even find myself humming along to the synthetic horn section (?) around the 3 minute mark which for me has to be one of the most sublime moments in music as Smith sings desperately about his unknown torture. it seems wrong though to be entertained by someone's suffering but isn't that the essence of pop music? and why such singers as Mary J Bilge continue to be popular because their life is a soap opera? i would like to think that the cure play on that morbidity if only through the sheer lengths they seem to go to depict the darker sides of the human psyche. 'if only tonight...' has an eastern flavour, a haunting reminder of the (stereotypical) exotic-ness of the Orient with its mystery and melancholy in dark eyes. 'Why can't I be you?' along with 'just like heaven' are perfect pop songs, a headrush of love subverted in some way either through a slightly unhinged desire to submerge into someone else ('I'll hug you to death') or doomed love ('I found myself alone, alone alone, upon a raging sea, which stole the only girl I loved and drowned her deep inside of me'). 'How beautiful you are' has to be the most vivid song I heard about the loss of faith in human nature so starkly detailed in narrative form and startling beginning 'you want to know why I hate you, well I'll try and explain.' the romance created by the words, rustic violin and piano, only serves to bring the world crashing down further, we feel the narrator's crushing reality check as though it were our own.

'the snakepit' is a far less pleasant experience musically, underneath the dirge guitars there is tune seeking to escape but gets lost in the wreaths of echo. 'all i want' sounds raw, guitars slicing through the fragile synths and Robert Smith doing his best to unsettle us with proclaiming tonight 'he's feeling like an animal' and all he wants is to 'hold you like a dog.' Lucky girl! There is clearly more fun times to be had however in the Cure camp as 'hot hot hot!!!' attests; I could even push the boat out and say its funky, a way to sneak the cure into the disco, as could 'the perfect girl' which rambles along prettily. I admit here the appeal of Robert Smith's voice is its indulgent sound, if that makes any sense at all! 'Icing sugar' is even bizarre, a rollicking rhythm built on a high bass line and - of all things - a saxophone moaning away in the near distance (they get everywhere). it ends with 'fight' a pugilistic call to arms, at turns stodgy and repetitive, yet curiously compelling. I have given up trying to understand why I am drawn to particular songs over others ('a thousand hours' and 'shiver and shake' pass me by for instance) yet here I like the chord changes that sound vaguely eastern, conjuring up images of ancient mongol warriors like Attila the Hun. i think he would have agreed with the sentiment 'never give in' at any rate.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The back room - The Editors

Humankind has spent quite a few of its thousand years or whatever on earth devising little boxes to organise the word into. Whether or not these boxes help us to understand it better or simply serve to create deviseness , cliques and misery is not a question to easily answer. I for one despise the concept although I spend a lot of my life organising it into neat little lists which I can then feel miserable at not achieving and I suppose its the same with boxes, we can organise everything to a certain point before we realise there is always something which will not fit. And then they or it are made to feel miserable. Anyway in a spirit of deviousness I present 10 reasons to love this album and 10 reasons to set fire to it and dance around its ashes. Whether I mean them all or not is my little secret.

Here with ten reasons to love this album:

1. 'Munich.' Enigmatic song title but relatively straightforward ditty about the need for sensitivity because "people are fragile things". It also amounts to the closest they get to a jibe - "you should know by now, be careful what you put them through" - although of course singer Tom is far too earnest for it to sound too nasty. Sage advice for everyone who breathes.

2. You like jangly indie guitars? Great, so do the Editors! You like mostly gentle songs discussing love, life, relationships and the misery of living in a Midlands town (with the worst railway station in the world)? Hooray, you might find solace in its atmospheres created.

3. The Editors aim to be EPIC in their endeavours, which results in some anthemic tunes. But not anthemic in the Oasis-beered-up-hug-your-drunk-mate kind of manner, oh no, in a manner that is far more sedate, more about grandeur, reaching for the stars rather than for the pint glass. In the words of 'Camera' - "you fall from grace, but fall with such grace."

4. If you enjoy songs which collide melancholia with hopefulness you may very well enjoy these.

5. There are moments of frenetic rush amidst the calm, "All Sparks" echoing the sentiment that the subject is rushing to their doom all too soon as the embers fall from their dying cigarette whilst "Fingers in the factories" sees a level of desperation kept under wraps until that point but which rails against the tediousness of a life we are expected to be thankful for.

6. "Bullets" is majestic, its repeated refrain 'You don't need this disease" conveying a real sense of urgency over guitars spiralling heavenward.

7. There are no saxophone solos.

8. There is a pleasing flow to the arrangement of the songs, for all the hits of intensity from songs such as 'Lights' and 'Munich' and 'Blood', we are seduced into calm with "Fall' and "Open your arms".

9. "Blood" is not only a viscous scarlet material but the name of one of the best songs here, an energetic romp about someone living in dubious circumstances: "you're with the red lights, your side of town." Yikes, sounds familiar...

10. After taking your heart and subjecting it to various lashes, highs and lows, they have the wit to end on a note of serenity with "Distance" which is quite spectacular. Lulled by tender voice and gentle guitar we feel a fulfilling end to the listening experience.

Alright that was actually harder than I thought. Here then, are ten reasons to light this album with one of the life sparks and watch it burn, dancing and laughing, until a pile of pathetic ashes.

1. There are some real highlights, however as a whole it gets a bit samey. This is particularly the fault of the guitar which does not radically alter its sound throughout and maintains the same jangly monotony.

2. Like Coldplay, Embrace, and all those dour serious bands, earnestness gets a bit dull after a while. And who are the Editors to keep preaching to all these people? It seems to be a catalogue of telling people off - treat people better, stop being self-destructive, blah blah

3. Why is Munich called Munich? There seems to be no explanation as to why its named after the German city and its annoying me. A justifiable reason to want to burn it.

4. On a good day, the ballads sound tender and warm. On a bad day, they just sound dirgey.

5. Its pleasant but that can be pretty damning. There is little mystery. Its easy to hear what they sing about (although I swear 'Lights' begins with 'I still love the lino baby'), all the songs have recognisable verse chorus structure. Its hardly challenging or creating any provocation.

6. There are loads of indie bands like this, take your pick. Do we really need another? Especially since the Editors do not necessarily bring a new perspective to the themes considered here.

7. They might be a good live band, and the live atmosphere might enable some of the more tedious songs to breathe, become more lovely, but I have not been able to find out, humph.

8. It makes you long for something more experimental. It wears its influences and intentions too much on its sleeve and, although such honesty is endearing, you cannot imagine them coming up with anything different (and the second album is pretty similar). Perhaps a kazoo or a glockenspiel would have livened things up a bit?

9. The songs are pretty enough but as I am finding after returning to this album after some prolonged absence, I am finding it hard to recapture the reason why I felt attracted to this album in the first place. The magic seems to have gone.

10. Because it's fun to burn things.