How did you spend your precious teenage years? I spent mine staying up too late in my bedroom, listening to the radio to hear songs of failure and frustration by older men. Yeah, I know. The Mark Radcliffe Graveyard Shift was my lodestone and I would listen with my finger twitching over the record button of my bedside radio/cassette player so I could capture the songs that would never, never come to my one local record shop. I know it sounds appalling but there wasn’t any internet.
One day, Radcliffe and Riley were away and Mark Lamarr was hosting when Animals That Swim came in to play a session. Singer Hank Starr was barefoot and, after loads of teasing from Lamarr about how he should wrap his feet in newspaper like a tramp, I drew some socks and faxed them in. (Faxed! There wasn’t any internet.)
Animals That Swim were principally wistful. Their songs were often condensed narratives: East St O’Neill tells an unsettling story about stealing floral tributes which shifts nervily from first to third person just before the middle eight, Pink Carnations is about recovering from a car crash in hospital and hints at sub-narratives for all the other patients on the ward. And Vic is about remembering going to see Vic Chesnutt play a London pub and shouting out a drunken request that gets a wry putdown from Chesnutt. The guitar shuffles and pauses in sympathy with the lyrics’ embarrassment; it’s all over in less than two minutes and gives the laugh at the end to Chesnutt.
Listen to Vic