One of my favorite fellow Stylus staffers is Andrew Unterberger
. Well, I have plenty of favorites, to tell you the truth, but Andrew's the guy I'll bump into (metaphorically) on SoulSeek and we'll chat on and off about music for hours. I think one of the reasons I find talking to him so interesting, in addition to him being, y'know, a smart guy, is this: If you look at something detailing some of the stuff he likes, say this
, you can note: numbers 10-5 I love to some degree, ranging from "yeah, they're good" to teeth-gnashing devotion (have I mentioned I'm seeing the Wrens on Saturday?). 4-1, meanwhile, range from "I've never heard them" (Lilys) to indifference, mild dislike, right up to actual distaste.
"Ah, but Ian," you might say, "what does this have to do with anything? We're glad you can make friends and play nice and all that, but do we care? We don't." Fair enough. I mention this because the story of my love for Broken Social Scene's 'Lover's Spit' is not and cannot be complete without mention of Unterberger.
Broken Social Scene, you may have noticed if you clicked that link, was #1 on his list. And they're the ones, all told, that I probably like the least.
It's not entirely the band's fault. You Forgot It In People
was a perfectly servicable indie rock album, and it's not the band's fault that it succumbed to the Manitoba Effect for me.* It was reviews like this
that did it (no offence to Ryan Schreiber; I've never met him, but the guy who comes across in his music reviews is genuinely likeable, and I'm insanely happy I gave into temptation and bought The Meadowlands
based on his review
, but sometimes his gusto gets the better of him). And then You Forgot It In People
proved to be subject to the Sloan Principle** as well, and that didn't make me want to grab it (note: Not Andrew and co., of course; more like the clueless hipsters at out school and scattered around Toronto. I don't like much else they do, why this?).
So when Andrew began talking it up to me, big time, I didn't want to shell out hard-earned cash. But, y'know, it's Unterberger
. The only person I know who likes Evil Heat
as much as I do. The guy who wrote a brilliant, deserved 9.8 review for Pulp's Hits
. The guy who has put a scary amount of effort in his New Order fandom (I'm jealous, actually). So I, lacking any scruples, downloaded the damn thing.
My initial conclusion, which I believe went up on the blog, was this: 'Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl' is brilliant, overpowering, transcendant; I fell in love instantly. Everything else is mush. A few listens later, I had to change that slightly: 'Anthems...' and 'Lover's Spit' (which Unterberger very cannily compared to Berlin era-Bowie in feel) are brilliant. The rest is okay. Subsequent listens have not changed my opinion.
Don't get me wrong (one last thing before I get to the song), I'm _glad_ people like You Forgot It In People
so much. I get things out of other albums that they get here, and they probably find my love, for, say, Superchunk's Indoor Living
(which I will go out on a limb and say is one of the most life-affirming records I own) (and furthermore, why the hell wouldn't AMG put a recommendation in for 'Song For Marion Brown'? Someone missed the boat there; possible future WES or Seconds
fodder) equally bizarre.
So, 'Lover's Spit': First things first. As Andrew warned me, quite correctly, one thing you should not be looking for in BSS is lyrical genius. I'm not sure whether he or I used the word "sucks" first, but I'm pretty sure we agree. 'Lover's Spit' is not bad at all in this respect, though; I'm not sure if lines like "All these people drinking lover's spit/They sit around and clean their face with it" and "You know it's time we grow old and do some shit" (the only lines that stick, for me) strike you as genius, but in any case they don't work nearly as well on the page/screen as they do when sung. There's a kind of shambolic, woozy majesty to the track, occasional drum hits/hand claps rooted behind the echoy piano part and the mournful horns. 'Lover's Spit' is a complete triumph of mood over sense, succeeding to such an extend that when the song proper ends for all intents and purposes at around four minutes, you genuinely don't mind that it putters around for another two and a half. You're still swept up in the music, in the feel
of it all (which, as is often true, is both paramount here and utterly ineffable; if I was going to attempt to describe it, maybe lying half-awake in bed in half-light after your lover has left to do an unpleasent job would fit it: half-comfortable, half-guilty, decidedly sensuous).
Now if only Broken Social Scene could put together an album that had the emotional impact over its entire length that 'Lover's Spit' and 'Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl' manage to sustain for ten minutes, that I'd fall for. For now I'll take this and go to sleep.
*The Manitoba Effect: When I am overpowered by hype, hear the album, and don't find it all that exciting. This is worse than actually hating the album, as at least then I feel some powerful emotion. So named because the first time I noticed it as a phenomenom was on Manitoba's underwhelming (for me) Up In Flames
** "It's not the band I hate/It's their fans" (from 'Coax Me'). Broadly applicable to all sorts of media, not just music. Not meant to indicate you hate all fans of that band, or the band itself. I could say the same thing about Belle & Sebastian, at times.