Best tunes of 2000: #6 Mojave 3 “Return to sender”

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It was Saturday afternoon, September 30, 2000, and I was at work, nearing the end of my shift. I called Tim because I had a hankering to go out and was curious to see what my friends were doing. “I know what you’re going to do tonight,” Tim proclaimed, much like Hunter S. Thompson’s lawyer might have done in ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas’. “You’re coming with me to see Mojave 3 at the Horseshoe tonight!” It was fortuitous for him and for me that he had an extra ticket for the show and was looking for someone to claim it. I had never really listened to Mojave 3 before but I was game.

I don’t really remember many details of the show, given the amounts of cheap draft consumed that night, but I’ve got two that I can relay. The first is that I must’ve really enjoyed it because I went out the very next day to purchase their latest disc, 2000’s “Excuses for travellers”. The second is a short conversation that transpired on the way out the Legendary Horseshoe after the show that will live on in infamy. Tim was saying something about how Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell had gone all Cowboy Junkies with Mojave 3. And I drunkenly proclaimed, “Tim, you have no concept of genre.” He just looked at me, incredulous, and said, “I don’t even know how to respond to that.”

I don’t want to put more words in his mouth than necessary but Tim was probably referring Halstead’s and Goswell’s pointed shift in musical direction after they disbanded their original band, Slowdive, and formed Mojave 3 with another Slowdive member, Ian McCutcheon. By 2000, they had added Alan Forrester and Chapterhouse’s Simon Rowe to their roster but they never did change the three in their name to a five. They were also on album number three by this time and had firmly defined their sound, as atmospheric as anything their first band would’ve been proud of but with a country and folk tinge, which is likely where Tim dug up his Cowboy Junkies reference.

“Return to sender” is a boppy number that dances along to Halstead’s gentle acoustic strumming and his soft and plaintive vocals. The jaunty drumming, the banjo twang, twinkling keys, and harmonica flourishes only to serve to add to the wistful joy. And all that’s great but for me, this song is elevated above others of its type by the lyrics.

I went looking for a priest
I said say something please
I don’t want to live my life all alone
He said god will take care
Of those that help themselves
But you look pretty screwed
Send a letter

So all this to say, after years of listening to this song and catching up on the rest of Mojave 3’s back catalogue, I may be willing to concede that Tim may have had something with the Cowboy Junkies comparison. (But I still stand by my statement about his lack of genre sensibilities.)

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.

100 best covers: #97 The Raveonettes “My boyfriend’s back”

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In October 2005, a video game called Stubbs the Zombie was unleashed upon the world. Being the world’s sorriest excuse for a gamer, it’s no surprise that I have neither seen nor played this game. (I should like to ask fellow blogger Sarca if she’s played and has thoughts on said game.) I assume it takes for its protagonist a zombie called Stubbs, given its title, but of its plot, I know nothing. I would posit, however, that it takes place in or about the 1950s or 1960s, having listened to its soundtrack. Yes, you heard that right. A soundtrack was made for this game (maybe this is a regular occurrence Sarca?) and it’s the music therein with which I am much more familiar.

Released on the same day as the game, the soundtrack boasts twelve covers of classics from the golden age of rock and roll and an original theme, all by indie artists that were popular in the mid-2000s. We have Cake performing “Strangers in the night”, Death Cab For Cutie doing “Earth angel”, and this lovely take on “My boyfriend’s back” by The Raveonettes.

The original number by The Angels is a bubble gum pop number from 1963 complete with handclaps and cheeky backup singers. It is kind of dark looking at it through today’s PC lenses, the singer threatening a guy with assault at the hands of her rather large boyfriend. It would seem that back in the day this guy would be seen as getting his just desserts since he had first harassed the girl for a date but once rebuffed (several times as it sounds), had spread rumours about her. But it’s all okay, you say, it’s a cheerful and fun song. They’re clapping their hands, fer chrissakes!

But then we listen to The Raveonettes’ cover, which also appears on their album from the same year, “Pretty in black”, and the mood is slightly different. Sure, it’s still boppy but the handclaps are replaced by electronic beats, the guitars are roughed up and raw, and Sharin Foo’s vocals are sassy, channelling Debbie Harry and almost insinuating that she doesn’t really need her boyfriend to defend her. It probably goes without saying that I enjoy this version better with all its noise and angst, while still hinting at the era of soda parlours and poodle dress, but I can certainly understand any nostalgic bliss directed at the original.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Vinyl love: Belle And Sebastian “Girls in peacetime want to dance”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Belle And Sebastian
Album Title: Girls in peacetime want to dance
Year released: 2015
Details: black vinyl, 2 x LP, gatefold sleeve

The skinny: The Glasgow-based indie pop collective returned after five years with album number nine and to my ears, it’s their best in a decade. It’s fresh and rejuvenated and shows that Stuart Murdoch hasn’t quite found the end of his tether yet.

Standout track: “The party line”