Best tunes of 1992: #17 Adorable “Sunshine smile”

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Vocalist and guitarist Pete Fijalkowski, guitarist Robert Dillam, bassist Stephen ‘Wil’ Williams, and drummer Kevin Gritton formed adorable in 1990. They recorded their debut single, “Sunshine smile”, the following year. It received positive reviews in the music press but the kicker is, it was never released to the buying public. At least, not that version. After Alan McGee signed them to Creation Records in 1992, the song was re-recorded and Adorable finally released this amazing track that we now know and love. Unfortunately for all involved, it was just a couple of years too late.

Adorable likely only managed two albums and four years of existence because the world had already moved on from the noise pop and shoegaze scenes to which they were pigeonholed. Their singles did well enough. In fact, a couple of them, this one included, managed to travel the radio waves across the ocean to get some play in North America. Their debut album, “Against perfection”, was released in 1993 and climbed into the album charts in their native UK but only just barely. When it was released on this side of the ocean, they tacked on the two non-album singles that had been released beforehand. And so when I found a copy of it in the used CD bins, a handful of years later, “Sunshine smile” was the opening track on the playlist of the compact disc I brought home with me to learn and love.*

This song is a great introduction to a band that sadly never really got the due they deserved. “Sunshine smile” starts all chiming and jangly while frontman, Pete Fijalkowski waxes poetic about his subject’s smile. Then, it gets all noisy, guitars move to crunchy and then, seamlessly back to reverberating chimes. The bridge gets all quiet with some taps at the cymbals and Pete goes quiet, too (“how does it feel to feel?”) and the feeling explodes and it all races to a crashing crescendo. It’s got Creation all over it.

And now that I am writing about this song and listening to it over and over, I am kicking myself for not thinking to include it in my Valentine’s Day playlist post last month. It’s quite lovely.

*Sadly, this song was left off the playlist again when Music on Vinyl pressed it to vinyl for a special 25th anniversary edition a couple of years ago but I bought it nonetheless.

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

100 best covers: #71 Pixies “I can’t forget”

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Leonard Cohen was a great songwriter. He was a poet that wrote poems and those poems became songs when he decided to sing them, instead of just read them aloud.

Of course, when you write excellent songs, you’ll have numerous other excellent bands and solo artists lining up to cover your work. And some of them might even transcend your original versions in popularity and commercial success. Such as it is with Leonard Cohen, who has been covered many times over, and even had just the one of his songs covered thousands of times (I’m sure you can guess of which song I speak). If you ask my wife, though, she’ll tell you that Mr. Cohen is tops on the list of artists that should never be covered and that no one can come close to touching his versions. Conversely, my friend Tim has said to me on more than one occasion that he likes Leonard Cohen’s songs, but only when someone else performs them.

And I’m pretty near certain that these words were first uttered by him whilst listening to the 1991 tribute album, “I’m your fan”. This excellent 18-song compilation was put together French music magazine, “Les Inrockuptibles”. The album’s title is a play on Cohen’s 1988 album, “I’m your man”, and its track listing included varied versions of Cohen tunes by artists such as Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, House of Love, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Lloyd Cole, John Cale, James, R.E.M., and of course, this excellent cover by the Pixies.

Recorded in the same year as “Trompe le monde”, their final album before dissolution, the Pixies’ version of “I can’t forget” was unsurprisingly more upbeat and hard-hitting than the original. Indeed, it could almost be mistaken for one of their own tunes, if it had only been a bit more weird and off-kilter. Cohen’s original was recorded a mere three years earlier for the aforementioned album, “I’m your man”, and while all of its songs were great – classics now – it took me a while to get over its production and instrumentation, which were synth heavy and definitely of their time and place.

Sorry Victoria. I think I’d take the heavy guitars, faster rhythm, and Frank Black’s yelp and Kim Deal’s chiming backup over the easier listening marimba synth-programmed hangover, even if it does include Cohen’s inimitable, rich sing-speak vocals.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

Cover:

The original:

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

Best tunes of 1992: #18 Morrissey “Certain people I know”

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You may have noticed that I’m on a bit of a Smiths bender here, running through my “Complete” box set, one piece at a time, in my weekend ‘Vinyl love’ series. And if you did notice, you might be thinking that I’m a bit of a fanatic of the band, which, of course, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking. However, things didn’t start out that way. I actually came to them late. And it was long after I was fan of Morrissey’s solo material.

Back when I was in the dog days of high school, my friend John fed my suddenly voracious appetite for new music by getting me into bands like Depeche Mode, The Housemartins, and The Cure. He would loan me a handful of compact discs at a time and I would record the ones I enjoyed before returning them. A couple early Morrissey albums came to me in this way but he would never allow any of his Smiths discs to leave his possession. I later learned while living him with him during my last few years of university that this was because he was constantly playing them, ad nauseum, which further delayed my ability to form an appreciation of their music.

Morrissey’s third solo album, “Your arsenal”, was my gateway to his music, being, first, the latest of his works at the time, and second, being that it was a change in direction towards a more rock edge, likely appealed to my transforming tastes. Morrissey had formed a new backing band for this album and together, they infused some glam and rockabilly sensibilities to the work. Track number five, “Certain people I know”, our song of today, for instance, has that twangy slide guitar and swinging beat, a comfy bed that surprisingly feels tailor-made for Morrissey’s warbling vocals. And there he is flirtatiously playing upon words, sneaking a side-long and knowing glance, and dancing across the stage with abandon. He’s taking a cue from his heroes and other certain people he knows and having a blast while doing it.

“They look at danger and they laugh their heads off.”

I once bought a T-shirt with that very line emblazoned on the back. It was on a solo trip to the big city with birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. I had gotten the lowdown from friends on where to look for eight-hole Doctor Martens on Yonge Street and took the GO train in, listening to “Your arsenal” on my Walkman all the way to T-dot. After purchasing the boots, I happened into a store selling what I’m pretty sure now were bootlegged concert Tees and came out with a black one with “Your arsenal” album cover art on the front and said lyric on the back. I wore it countless times over the following months, that is, until it fell into the wrong laundry wash load and was shrunk a couple sizes too small. I ended up giving it to that same friend, John, who introduced me to Morrissey in the first place.

“I use the cue and then I hand it on to you.”

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