Best tunes of 1992: #1 Ride “Leave them all behind”

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Number one equals “Leave them all behind”. Hands down. This is my favourite song of 1992. And it is also my favourite Ride song. How can you argue with eight plus minutes of pure joy and ecstasy?

Ride’s sophomore album, “Going blank again”, was my introduction to the Oxford quartet of Mark Gardner, Andy Bell, Loz Colbert, and Steve Queralt. I first heard it probably a year, or maybe, a year and half after it was released. My friend Tim gave me a cassette dubbed copy on one of our common trips back to our hometown of Bowmanville from our respective universities.

I was living off campus while attending York University that year, just north of the city of Toronto, in a basement apartment in Vaughan. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, barely enough for rent and groceries, so much of my time outside of class was spent just hanging around the apartment. I didn’t have a computer (the internet wasn’t really a thing yet anyway) and only the most basic of cable packages, but I did have my music. I spent a lot of time making and remaking mixed tapes, using music from other cassettes or my still rather small CD collection. A good many of those mixes contained songs from “Going blank again” and I’d wager that “Leave them all behind” was on more than a couple of these.

It is the opening track and the first single off “Going blank again” and where the rest of the songs on the album signal an easing away from the shoegaze fold for Ride, this one is pretty much textbook. As I mentioned at the outset, “Leave them all behind” is a shade more than eight minutes. The alien orb opening – reverb and sirens and flashing lights – gives way to an explosion of drums, roaring guitars and Steve Queralt’s muscular bass. Mark Gardner and Andy Bell sing as one, not harmonized, not foiled, but like two laser beams from two different sources focused on the same target. The words they form don’t really matter as much as the melody produced. It adds another crashing against the ordered chaos, the cacophony, like a sonic onion, from which many layers peeled away reveal yet more layers.

Indeed, “Leave them all behind” is not a song to which you listen, but one that is to be felt, touched, and experienced. You close your eyelids and you can see it there in the darkness. And when it devolves into senseless noise at the end, it just makes perfect sense.

It is the only song that could have been number one on this list. So let’s play it again.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1992: #2 The Sisters of Mercy “Temple of love (1992)”

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Here we are finally near the end of this list of my favourite tunes of 1992, a series that I started just over a year and a half ago. I figure it’s time to wrap this thing up. And with these last two songs, we’ve got some epic, exciting tunes that are, comparatively speaking, quite different from each other.

Number two feels like a bit of a cheat. “Temple of love” was originally released as a non-album single by goth icons, The Sisters of Mercy, way back in the band’s early days in 1983. But this isn’t the version I know and love. No. I’m talking instead about the version that was re-recorded and reissued in 1992 to promote “Some girls wander by mistake”, a compilation of the band’s early material released by the label to mitigate the impacts of what it saw as rampant bootlegging. This new version of “Temple of love” doesn’t actually appear on said compilation, choosing instead to only include the original, untouched version. In fact, all of the songs that the Sisters released between 1980 and 1983 appear here as they were originally released, much to the chagrin of band frontman Andrew Eldritch, who wasn’t such a fan of all of it.

My friend Tim, whom I’ve credited in the past with introducing me to the band, loaned me his CD single copy of “Temple of love (1992)” in high school English class one day. I duly brought it home, copied it to cassette tape and repeatedly listened to this recording on my walkman that year. I had transcribed the name of track one exactly as it appeared on the back of the CD case: “Temple of love (Touched by the hand of Ofra Haza)”. Perhaps it was innocent of me but I had no idea at the time that this wasn’t a new song. I only heard the original when I dubbed myself a copy of “Some girls wander by mistake” much later.

Some have said this new version was faster and more guitar heavy but, if you listen to it back to back with the sinister sounding, post-punk influenced original, you can hear that original is actually faster in pace and has plenty of guitars to go around. The 1992 version just feels harder by comparison because of the stepped up, stomping drums and because it continues the heavy guitar themes explored with lead guitarist Andreas Bruhn on their previous studio album, 1990’s “Vision thing”. And I haven’t even mentioned yet the lengths of the two tracks – the original was quite big at just over seven and a half minutes but this second version bigs up on the original by additional thirty seconds.

But the real treasure of this second version for me is the vocal work by Ofra Haza, whose contributions Eldritch tried to highlight in the aforementioned title byline. It was another collaboration that sounded odd on paper**, but this one actually worked. Haza was a pop singer, one that maybe wasn’t as well-known in England or North America, but one that was very popular in her home country and was known there as “the Israeli Madonna”. It is her mezzo-soprano that lays another level to the chugging, chainsaw guitars and feels like an angel singing among the demons. It is a tender foil against Andrew Eldritch’s dark and deep voice espousing love as a religion, a spiritual experience to be feared, revered, and awed.

“In the temple of love: Shine like thunder
In the temple of love: Cry like rain
In the temple of love: Hear the calling
And the temple of love is falling down”

And as I said back when this very tune came in at number one out of my top five Sisters of Mercy tunes in a post a couple of years ago, this is a song that I’ve danced to many times over the years, especially back in my university days. Indeed, in my mind, “Temple of love (1992)” is a perfect fit for a dance floor explosion.

*The Sisters of Mercy’s label, WEA, had claimed in and around this time that the band were the most bootlegged band in their roster. And I believe it, given the ridiculous amounts of bootlegged vinyl I’ve seen flipping through the bins over the years.

**I’m pretty sure I read that it was also Andrew Eldritch’s idea for The Sisters of Mercy to tour North America with Public Enemy in 1991. It wasn’t quite as successful.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2012: #19 Great Lake Swimmers “Easy come easy go”

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If you’ve never heard of Great Lake Swimmers or listened to their poignant indie folk, you’re indeed missing out. In the past, I would often say about them that when listening to them, they were an amazing experience, but would then go long periods without listening to them and forget about them, until a new album was released and I would fall in love with them all over again. But now that I’ve seen myself amass a bunch of their records as a part of my vinyl collection, I can honestly mark them down as one of my favourite bands, not just a standout amongst the indie folk greats.

Great Lake Swimmers have always been the project of singer/songwriter Tony Dekker. He started out using the name back in 2003 and recorded the self-titled debut in an abandoned grain silo in his hometown of Wainfleet, Ontario. Over the years, he has brought in a number of different musicians to augment his quiet and honest musings on life and the world around him. It felt there was a shift, though, with the band’s fifth album, 2012’s “New wild everywhere”. To his long time collaborator in Erik Arnesen (banjo/guitars), Tony Dekker added fiddler/vocalist Miranda Mulholland, upright bass player Bret Higgins, and Greg Millson on (gasp!) drums.

Yes, the drums were a somewhat new fixture and almost automatically picked up the tempo and mood by default. But I really think it was the addition of Miranda Mulholland that breathed new life into Dekker’s compositions with her backing vocal harmonies and her rollicking fiddle work. Just take “Easy come easy go”, my favourite tune on the album, as an example. Of course, it still features Dekker’s literate and hefty words but it’s more upbeat than anything he had produced up to that point.

“Call it chance, call it choice
Words escape on the breath of your voice
Spinning a magic as they arrive
It’s not fail when it’s a shallow dive”

But don’t get the wrong idea. It is still subdued, classy, and understated. You can almost see Tony and his band just nodding and tapping their toes, performing in button up shirts, done all the way up, sleeves rolled to the elbow, hair slicked or tied back, everything prim and perfect and no-nonsense. Meanwhile, the crowd gathered to watch them, in my mind’s eye, in a broken down barn, on a quiet and warm summer’s night, surrounding the band from an appropriate distance, swaying in abandon on top of hay bales, stomping their feet, and swinging and dipping their partners in love.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2012 list, click here.