I’ve been listening to the new Neko Case album a lot lately. And, also, listening to her older albums. And the ones she did with her Boyfriends. And the New Pornographers. And just mostly listening to Neko Case, really – especially That Teenage Feeling. This song’s so brief (only 2:43) and sung with so much understatement it’s almost a sigh. “Now that we’ve met, we can only laugh at these regrets” croons Case, all romance, all detachment. “Now my heart is green as weeds, grown to outlive their season” – this tailing down to a low note as the lyrics minutely catch the feeling of youthful wants outgrown by time and circumstance. “It’s hard, it’s hard” she sings out at the end, carrying a treacherously long and high phrase as though it was the airiest thing possible.
Today is a bright, clean, post-pub sort of day – exactly the sort of morning which is improved by a driving, yearning, glossy pop song. Valentine starts with a rush and doesn’t let up. All the way to the middle eight, it feels like nothing but chorus, pursuing its ‘love-as-natural-disaster’ metaphor irresistibly: “Tell me, when did the water surround me?” coos the singer, like someone who doesn’t mind drowning at all. And then it all holds back for a moment before the song resurges in a cascade of sweet falsetto moans and the muscular Trevor Horn production propels it all home. Delays should be absolutely enormous and the failure of the pop-buying world to make them so is basically a massive stain on humanity.
And speaking of how amazing Trevor Horn is, Joe’s 80s song wars entry is a bit perfect.
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