Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1990: #13 The Sundays “Here’s where the story ends”

<< #14    |    #12 >>

The Sundays’ “Here’s where the story ends” epitomizes for me the dog days of summer, something we have yet to really experience here in Ottawa, Canada this year. The song is jangly and full of sunshine, yet you don’t have to make a lot of movements to be able to dance to it. Instead, the peppy yet subdued guitar strumming backbone of the song, warms you up, bringing to mind some of the more upbeat tunes from The Smiths’ repertoire, and yet Harriet Wheeler’s vocals are completely different than those of Morrissey. Less affected and more natural and yes, actually cheerful.

The Sundays were formed by Wheeler and David Gavurin in 1988. While they added members to become a four piece by the time they recorded any material, the original duo were the main creative force behind this British alternative rock band. They released their debut album, “Reading, writing, and arithmetic”, in 1990 and it was a creative and commercial success, reaching number 4 on the UK charts and 39 in the US, mostly on the back of “Here’s where the story ends”. They released two more albums in the nineties, with each selling about the same amount of units as the debut. After that, silence. They have never officially broken up but it’s been almost twenty years since their last release. Apparently, Wheeler and Gavurin, after taking time away to raise their two children, have been working on new material, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it will ever see the light of day. The couple are notorious for taking their time and are perfectionists when it comes to their own music.

Still, we have a pretty solid body of work from the band in the 1990s. “Here’s where the story ends” is a particularly lovely slice of joy. So bring on the sunshine.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2000: #7 Teenage Fanclub “I need direction”

<< #8    |    #6 >>

Creeping ever closer to the number one song on my Best tunes of 2000 list, we have, at number seven, Teenage Fanclub”s “I need direction”.

Teenage Fanclub is a criminally overlooked, alternative rock band that formed in Scotland in 1989. They were for many years a guitar heavy quartet, made up of Norman Blake, Gerard Love, Raymond McGinley, and a revolving door of drummers (finally settling on Francis MacDonald), but in recent years, have added a fifth member, Dave McGowan, on keys. Over the course of ten albums, their sound has evolved from its basis in loud, anarchic, and distorted guitars to the jangly beauty it is today, deeply rooted in their love for Big Star and the sweet sounds of harmonizing vocals. Songwriting duties are shared evenly between the band’s three principal guitarists and each take lead vocals on the songs they wrote, with all of the members adding their backing vocals to the mix.

I got into Teenage Fanclub originally in 1991 with that year’s excellent long player, “Bandwagonesque”, and have been following them closely ever since. In fact, “Howdy!”, the 2000 album on which “I need direction” appears, is their first album since “Bandwagonesque” that I didn’t purchase immediately on compact disc. Not because I stopped loving the group, mind you. It just so happened that around this time there was a little thing called Napster and the explosion and proliferation of file sharing. I admit to being pulled in. Mostly every crazed music fan salivated at the thought of limitless “free” music. Online file sharing and the MP3 changed everything for music, the music industry, and music fans (perhaps more on that another time). In 2000, however, my internet came courtesy of a dialup connection so though it was “free”, the downloads were slow. One had to be more choosy than we were in later years when high speeds became the norm. I had a copy of the single, “I need direction”, and grew to love it long before I ever purchased and listened to the rest of “Howdy!”.

And maybe it’s for this reason that I still see this song as the standout track on the album. The Gerard Love penned and helmed number is boppy with jangly guitars and sweet, almost to the point of cheese, “ba ba ba ba” harmonies that flit in and about the chorus. If you’re not with me so far, have a taste of that zippy organ Doors-esque bridge around the 2:43 mark that leads to some lovely dark guitar lickage. Sold, no?

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

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1990: #21 Concrete Blonde “Joey”

<< #22    |    #20 >>

The cassette single, or “cassingle”, was the magnetic cassette tape equivalent to the vinyl 45, the format it was meant to replace back in the mid to late 80s and into the 90s. However, it never did gain the traction that the record companies had hoped it would. And why would it, really? A cassette with a song on each side, or in some cases, both songs repeated on both sides, packaged in a flimsy cardboard sleeve. It was hardly worth shelling out the dough and definitely not worth inserting into your Sony Sports Walkman if you made the miscalculation of purchasing it. Nonetheless, anyone who listened to music back in those days likely remembers having one or two cassingles in their collection and indeed, I’m sure some of you even still have one or two of these relics gathering dust somewheres.

I definitely had one or two at the time and remember exchanging and sharing these two song wonders between friends. I mention this long defunct format today because the first time I ever heard Concrete Blonde’s “Joey” was when a girl I was “seeing” for a very brief time in high school loaned me her copy of the cassette single. And also, the very fact that this song was released in this format illustrates that it enjoyed a modest modicum of commercial success, one the few songs by the band that did.

Concrete Blonde was an American alternative rock band led by the intense vocals of Johnette Napolitano and whose name was suggested to the band by friend and fellow IRS labelmate Michael Stipe. In their early days, the band played to an almost exclusive college radio crowd, right up until the release of “Bloodletting”, which exposed them to wider commercial audience, mostly thanks to this track, “Joey”. The interesting thing is that this is the album that saw the band move away from their more pedestrian, hard rock roots towards a darker, more gothic rock sound.

“Joey” was the final track recorded for the album because the lyrics were emotionally difficult for Napolitano to lay down. She has since confirmed early suspicions that the song is about an alcoholic (a stretch, I know), and specifically, about her relationship with Wall of Voodoo guitarist, Marc Moreland. Even without knowing any of this, you can hear the pain in Napolitano’s voice as it flips between the soothing and sad verses to the rage and the pleading in her chorus.

But if I seem to be confused
I didn’t mean to be with you.
And when you said I scared you
Well, I guess you scared me too.

The song is quite beautiful in its melancholy, and not just in the lyrics and the way she sings them, but also in the solemnity of the simple drum line and fills and the aching guitar solos. This is a song that I’ve played on repeat numerous times in the past and have also done a few times this week. Enjoy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.