This wasn’t really the second song I wanted to feature, since we heard about the Guillemots a couple years ago and the thrill of discovery has worn off a bit. They’re pretty well-known in hipster douchebag circles — at least UK-based hipster douchebag circles (er, roundabouts?) — since they were nominated for the Brit Awards and the Mercury Music prize, and their album got pretty high in the charts. But as far as I can tell, they’re virtually unknown in the US, so my douchebag cred can remain intact in at least one English-speaking country.
I’ve used it now basically because I can’t find videos of the other songs I wanted to highlight, and it’ll take too much time to figure out how to make my own video to get any of those out today. Nevertheless, this is an excellent song, and just cause I’m a little inured to its loveliness, it’s certainly no knock on it. I was obsessed with it when I first heard it, and it gave me The Joy, more so than any other song in recent memory. (And I just found out through a stroll through Wikipedia that their next album is out in a few days, so hey! Relevant!)
So I was thinking I’d do kind of a close reading of these songs — specific moments that make the song for me, since it’s easy enough to say, “Oh, I love that song” but not so easy to actually explain why you love it. So here’s my best attempt:
:05 — Love the tuning up / tv coming on / distorted tape deck noises — they feel like the hesitation of someone who’s not quite ready to begin but forced to anyway.
:22 — “Love you through sparks and shining dragons I do” — dragons? They’d sold me 20 seconds in.
:25 — This simple little keyboard refrain, along with the wobbly distorted-circus sample (which metaphorically reinforces the song’s false starts), is what makes the first part of the song. We know it’s going somewhere and the lovely circular lead-up heightens the anticipation.
:3o — “Now there’s poetry in an empty Coke can” / “Now there’s majesty in a burned-out caravan” — These lines cut to the heart of what it’s like to be newly in love — the most ordinary, even depressing sights have a certain magic to them. I love that the image of an empty Coke can has made it into a love song — throughout the song, mundane images are contrasted with the operatic highs of the music.
:41 — Great little guitar/banjo/ukulele/whatever the hell that thing is riff here, as the various instruments seem to wake up to the song.
1:10 — Here the song kicks into a higher gear (and in the video, the images turn from a dingy black-and-white room to a full-color beach — obvious, maybe, but the song seems to demand it. However, the song does not demand Fyfe Dangerfield’s [!] seemingly earthquake-induced dancing. He dances like I imagine Faraday would dance). The bass and guitar take over the keyboard’s riff, pushing it to the front of the song and propelling it forward. The tension mounts through the next minute as the song builds towards its catharsis.
1:30 — “And the symmetry in your Northern grin” — this line always makes me smile, though that may just be because I understand the cultural meaning “Northern” has in England now that I’ve lived here and feel unduly proud of myself.
1:45 — Here a little barely-audible piano refrain sidles in, again propelling the song to even more tension as the tempo increases and the instruments all kick in.
1:47 — “You got me off the sofa / Just sprang out of the air / The best things come from nowhere” — Again, these are very simple, even cliched words, but in three lines Dangerfield’s able to capture the essence of falling in love — feeling like a whirlwind came from nowhere to propel you out of your ordinary life into something extraordinary (but still mundane because it’s so common).
2:00 — “I can’t believe you care” — the song reaches its catharsis here, both musically and emotionally. Where before Dangerfield sang that “I love you, I don’t think you care,” here he finally accepts it, extending the word “care” into one long, swooping, ecstatic note that is the musical equivalent of spinning around with your arms out on top of a mountain, feeling like you’re a part of the sky (or dancing like a maniac on a beach, as they do in the video). The instruments go nuts, and the chorus of backing vocals joins in. I fucking love this part, and I think it would be pretty hard not to feel uplifted by it. And though I’ve attempted to keep this pretty chaste so far, I’d be remiss in not comparing the song to a musical orgasm — the build of tension, the increasing urgency, the ecstatic release, and the dizzy, murmuring wind-down. (I don’t like thinking of Fyfe Dangerfield having an orgasm either, especially since it seems to involve screeching and copious throwing of luggage and cookie cutters.)
2:33 — And here we have the murmuring wind-down: “Yes I believe you” and “I’m in love” (I think) repeated over and over and mechanically slowed down to mimic a hazy afterglow. We could read this two ways: either Dangerfield has just convinced himself into believing the object of his love loves him back by pleasuring himself to thoughts of her, or the object of his love has just sexed him up to convince him of his/her devotion. Or I’m a sex-obsessed crazy and the song is about really appreciating your garbageman. Either way I think it works.
3:20 — We get little goodbyes from all the instruments here, winding the song down in much the way it wound up.
My only complaint about the song is that it’s not long enough — that glorious catharsis should go on longer, for two verses, though of course metaphorically it doesn’t work. We saw the Guillemots live a year or so ago, and I was looking forward to this song all the way through, but when they played it, it was a bit of a disappointment. I don’t know if it was just because the venue wasn’t big enough or they didn’t have enough instruments or what, but it just didn’t have the same joyous lunacy that the original did (their version of Sao Paulo was pretty great, though, and that’s got even more of a bonkers ending).
Now, then. Want a smoke?