Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, March 31, 2008

A grain or two of truth among the grass

Tim (Kalyr) alerted me to a recent Guardian article where people were asked to nominate their favourite flop (commercial or critical) follow-up albums. A number of people nominated Pulp's This Is Hardcore which seems very reasonable. There was also this perceptive response from 'carefree':

"Pulp - This is Hardcore, although probably already mentioned above its a cut above Different Class"

- actually, if you're mentioning Different Class, I'd argue the reverse of the original proposition - Pulp's great tragedy was that they became massive one album *after* their masterpiece - His'n'Hers is their best album by a country mile, and they followed it up with some crowd-pleasing hit songs and bloody Sadie Frost larking around in a supermarket - I ask you!

I once read a genius comment along the lines of "Jarvis Cocker's entire career is founded on the fact he knows he will never write a better song than 'Babies'" - very cruel, but a grain of truth in there. 'Don't Let Him Waste Your Time' comes pretty close to Babies though...

I have always had a soft spot for Glory Days on This Is Hardcore, which contains my favourite Cocker couplet:

Well I used to do the I Ching, but then I had to feed the meter;
Now I can't see into the future, but at least I can use the heater.

(Note for the perplexed: the most common way of casting I Ching hexagrams involves tossing three coins.)

Someone else suggested Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets, to which I would add both Animals and Obscured By Clouds. Relayer by Yes lay undeservedly in the shadow of its massive predecessor Tales From Topographic Oceans, and I always seem to have liked Kevin Ayers's The Confessions of Doctor Dream more than most people I know. Then there's Richard & Linda Thompson's Sunnyvista, sandwiched between Pour Down Like Silver and Shoot Out The Lights and unjustly overlooked as a result. Possibly the best example, though, is the Abba album that hardly anyone remembers (and no, I don't mean Abba Live, though that has its moments too): The Visitors. If anything, the strains in the band added to the strange left-field quality of the album which evidently put off a lot of people expecting another Super Trouper. It only has one real clunker (Two For The Price Of One) and several bona fide masterpieces (the title track, When All Is Said And Done, One Of Us, Slipping Through My Fingers - the last two having received a new lease of life via the musical Mamma Mia!)


At 31 March, 2008 11:27, Blogger Persephone said...

I loved When All is Said and Done --- right up to the moment when I finally listened to the lyrics... Oh gawd...

At 31 March, 2008 13:00, Blogger Rob said...

I believe I can guess the line you have in mind....(:)>. But the rest of the lyrics hold up pretty well, and the tune is great.

And come on, if Tom Lehrer had written that rhyme you'd have loved it. Wouldn't you?

At 31 March, 2008 23:02, Blogger Persephone said...

By golly, you're right! I'll try to imagine he wrote it next time I hear it, and see if it helps. ABBA, witty social satirists, yeah, that's the ticket...

At 01 April, 2008 00:50, Blogger Rob said...

I detect a hint of irony there... Actually viewing Abba as pop music's answer to Gustav Mahler rather than Tom Lehrer is closer to the truth, at least in the sense that the music of both is caught in this perpetual balancing act between the profound and the banal. And in the same way that Mahler was fully aware of everything he was writing and the effect it would have, I don't believe that Abba - certainly by the end of their career - were releasing anything whose effect on the listener was unintended. Not even Two For The Price Of One, however much I might wish it otherwise.

At 01 April, 2008 01:14, Blogger Persephone said...

Clearly, I should have put my smiley in there! I didn't intend to be ironic or sarcastic; I thought your comment about Lehrer was very clever, because I would have indeed giggled helplessly in that context. As for Mahler, alas, he only ever made me groggy, so I guess I have neither Alma Schindler's brains nor stamina (as she, in Tom's immortal words: "bagged Gustaf and Walter and Franz").

At 01 April, 2008 02:20, Blogger Rob said...

The body that reached her embalmer/Was one that had known how to live!

I remember a magnificent BBC radio programme on AS (I may have it somewhere on reel-to-reel tape, for God's sake) which suggested that the real love of her life was Felix Kokoschka. "And God knows how many between", indeed.

Re parodies, BTW, I've taken the liberty of cribbing your wonderful Woad Song.

At 01 April, 2008 13:28, Blogger Persephone said...

You're most welcome, sir!
Spread the woad!
(And thanks for the link...)


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