Best tunes of 1991: #26 Jesus Jones “International bright young thing”

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Surely you all remember “Right here, right now” and some of you might recall “Real, real, real”, but what about “International bright young thing”?

I feel like I might get some mixed responses to this question. In North America, only the first of these received ridiculous amounts of airplay, still getting some smatterings here and there on today’s pop radio and some usage in commercials now and again, so that most might only remember the band for that one song. But I’d be curious to hear from our friends in Europe and England, where “International bright young thing” actually outperformed the other two, ending up the highest charting single from “Doubt”.

To be honest, “Doubt” was the one album I knew (and I imagine the same could be said for most people) but the band has actually released five albums. (And would you believe that a new one, their first in 17 years, is due out in the spring?) I couldn’t tell you if their sound has evolved over the years, though I can’t imagine it hasn’t, but “Doubt” is definitely of its time and place. Alternative dance was all the rage in 1991 and Jesus Jones was right on the front lines. I’ve listened to the album a number of times over the last little while, bringing back tonnes of memories each time, and I’ve decided I still love it, despite it obviously showing its age.

I’ve thought about dragging out and boring you with some of those stories and memories that this band and this particular song dredge up. Like the one about how this album somehow converted my friend Jason, the world’s biggest Poison fan, to alternative music. Or the one about how my friend Elliott ran into Mike Edwards outside the MuchMusic building in Toronto, asked for his autograph, and instead learned what a ‘dick’ the lead singer was. Or I could talk about the night I watched the video for “International bright young thing” over and over on videocassette for well over half an hour one night. But such a high energy dance begs something more exciting.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to invent something because I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever heard a Jesus Jones song played in a dance club. It could be that I never got out to an alternative club until ‘94 or later and by that time, these guys had already run their course. But there must’ve been a Saturday night at the Moon Room or The Crow’s Nest or The Dance Cave or Whiskey Saigon (all clubs I’ve enjoyed in the past) where the DJ knowingly slipped this single on and I can see it as I slip it on myself and close my eyes.

The dance floor is already full from EMF’s “Unbelievable“, the previous song, and that frantic beat comes on. There’s sweat soaked t-shirts everywhere and long hair flailing. The dance floor is littered with crinkled plastic beer cups. My friend Tim is at the bar because it’s last call. He makes a gesture asking if I want another and I brandish a big thumbs up. The guitar loop and the electricity of it all is enough fuel for now. There’s lasers and lights and thumping beats and nothing else and it’s brilliant.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2010: #4 The Radio Dept. “This time around”

For years and years and years, my good (old) friends and I have gone fall camping in Algonquin Park. We originally picked the fall, rather than the crazed, busy summer, so that it would be quieter, despite the fact that once we got drinking, we were often the loudest in the park. Over the years, it has gotten busier deeper into the season and we’ve had to push our date further, from early October to early November. And yes, we’ve had some really cold nights and often get snow, but we’ve learned a thing or two over the years and as our salaries have increased, we’ve invested in better gear. Our conversations around the usually massive campfire are never very deep. We catch up, relive stories, laugh, and talk movies and, of course, music.

One such trip, many, many, many years ago now, my friend Tim famously brought up an article he had read on The Charlatans (UK, for those of us in North America). Whoever had written the article suggested that though they survived the longest of their contemporaries, they were no one’s favourite band. Our friend Tim, emboldened by multiple beers, brashly went further, suggesting that they might not have had any lasting influence and that a few years after they stopped producing music, they might be forgotten altogether. There were raised voices and indignation, and I was amongst the two or three that disagreed with him. It has become a running joke ever since with Tim facetiously asking “Who?” whenever the band comes up in conversation.

Fast forward to 2010, I don’t know how many years later, and I am on bus, commuting home from work. I am perusing the latest album by this Swedish band I had just came across and something clicks. These guys may not be directly influenced by but they certainly sounded a lot like The Charlatans on their debut album, “Some friendly”!

The Radio Dept. formed in Lund, Sweden in the late 1990s and adopted a dream pop sound with an often danceable edge. “This time around” is track three off their third album, “Clinging to a scheme”. It was never released as a single but easily could’ve been. It is infectious beats, airy, laser show guitars, and lazy vocals, albeit fattened with effects, sounding so much like a young Tim Burgess. The major difference that is most obvious to me is that in the case of The Radio Dept., the lyrics are intelligible, and are often politically charged.

“You feel old like the fight
Learning new ways to be right
And how to cope with disloyalty
It’s not a song
That will prove them wrong
This time around.”

Enjoy! And to all you Charlies fans, let me know if I am crazy or not. You can hear it too, right?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2001: #19 Richard Hawley “Long black train”

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You may not be familiar with the name Richard Hawley, nor his music, but you might have heard of the short-lived 90s post-Britpop band, Longpigs. And if not them, surely Pulp. Hawley was a guitarist for both of these bands, lead for the former, touring and session performer for the latter. And though I can’t remember exactly when I decided to sample some of his solo material, it was definitely because of his work with those two bands (both of whom, I love) that I did so. However, all you have to do is listen to the first two seconds of the song below to determine that his solo work sounds nothing like the music by his former bands.

At first, I enjoyed quite a bit of his debut long player, “Late night final”, whenever I listened to it, especially “Long black train”. However, after a month or so of spins, I forgot all about the album until around 2008 when I recognized his song “Baby, you’re my light” in the film, “Nick and Norah’s infinite playlist”. (It’s a great film, if you haven’t seen it, though I’m a sucker for any film about music.) Then, I went on a huge Richard Hawley kick, rediscovering the debut and exploring the rest of his output up to that point.

My wife Victoria was not a huge fan of “Long black train” when I played it for her, saying it sounds too much like a Christmas song. She’s not exactly wrong in this. What she knows as the Christmas classics were usually sung by the crooners of the thirties, forties, and fifties. And Richard Hawley certainly sings like a crooner, channelling Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Indeed, his smooth baritone vocals negate any need at all for complex instrumentation.

For me, “Long black train” is slow burning number, like a cigarette left unattended in an overflowing ashtray, nearly since the point of lighting, the length of it ash, threatening to disintegrate to nothing with one misdirected deep breath. It is a gentle tug at the acoustic, a hint of the slide, the pretence of the xylophone, and Hawley’s deep voice rumbling over it all. It is the time of night of the album’s title, when any respectable person is already asleep and misery reigns.

It’s not at all a song for your morning commute. If I were you, I’d wait until the sun goes down later on today and then, turn it up.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.