69 Love Songs #5
by Oliver Rose
Photo: John Cooper
Credit: GQ Magazine
This edition of 69 love-songs comprises an eclectic mixture of the beautifully romantic and the utterly sad. All of the songs are in the same key, so listen to them in a row and you’ll feel all tickly. Here they are:
1. John Cooper Clarke – I Wanna Be Yours
How many people, I wonder, know who really wrote the last track on Arctic Monkey’s AM? I must say, I hate everything about that track – its pretentious Americana tremolo; its awkward vocal phrasing and worst of all, Alex Turner’s forced, Dee daa twists on what is already a quintessentially Northern poem: “lecky metre”? Piss off. Yes siree, for the real I Wanna Be Yours, look no further than Manc poet mega-star, John Cooper Clarke (pictured), whose post-beat sensibilities and post-punk instrumentation meld together to form something perfectly post-love. Entirely unenthused against the warmly glow of a new wave chord progression; Clarke’s sludgy spoken passages embody total emotional juxtaposition, pitching desire against indifference – passion against the derisory. His kitchen-sink metaphors (“I wanna be your Ford Cortina / I will never rust”) are unattractively tangible, and even his insincerity is questionable. “Let me be your teddy bear”, he croons drily, quoting Elvis – why would someone half-heartedly pursue romance? Either way, there’s some timeless appeal to Clarke’s accessible melancholy. I Wanna Be Yours is an exemplary anti-love song. I would suggest Mr. Turner, that unless done innovatively, meddling with a classic like this ought be punishable by death…or maybe love…oh, aren’t they all the same anyway?
2. Eels – Fucker
Found originally on the B-side of Novocaine for the Soul, Fucker is the archetypical Eels track. Making pronounced used of stereo-spread mixing, the words and music aren’t really interwoven so much as they are clinging to one another whilst falling through space. As opposed to its lyrical entirety (title, subject matter, mood etc.), the instrumentation here is gorgeously gentle – soft percussion, slowly modulating guitar feedback and saccharin chords (swept against fingernails as per Eels protocol) make for a damn pretty tune. In word, Mark Oliver Everett’s very personal brand of conflicted sad strikes a brilliant balance between introverted, gloomy reflection and projected, lashing aggression. Discussing love with only himself and a cat for company, he trudges toward the depressing conclusion of inescapable dependence. “I’m tired and sick, but I don’t want to be alone” he considers before taking the time to consider briefly the subject of his heart – “something about you – something about spending the afternoon asleep in your arms”. Everett being Everett however, is forced to paint love as a necessary evil. “I hate you, fucker” he finally opines. Naturally.
3. Richard Hawley – Tonight The Streets Are Ours
Don’t worry, there’ll no funny business here; no misery, no post-modern considerations for your academic ear. No – instead, I present to you an extremely straightforward love-song. No trickery – no twists; just one man, his words, his song and his love. Equally wonderful in both its full band and acoustic solo renditions, Tonight The Streets Are Ours is Mary’s walk from the porch to Springsteen’s front seat Thunder Road; Morrissey’s desperate invitation for an endless night-time drive through There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. It’s the promise of an open road at night – one of music’s oldest lyrical tropes. Here, however there’s no escapist element; it’s about adventure, indulging wild impulse and ignoring the things that Bruce and Moz want so badly to escape. All that positivity really sets this track apart, not only from the rest of 2007’s indie anthems, but from the love-song of the outsider more generally. Musically, Hawley’s rendition of this auto-emotive tradition is spellbinding; rollicking guitars, twinkling castanets and sugar-sweet strings blast in together at the song’s opening. Add to that an absolutely superb vocal melody and a brilliantly satisfying, Carole King-standard chord progression and boom – you’re set to go. Rarely does the perpetuation of cliché sound so very lovely, but here, it absolutely does.