Best tunes of 2002: #17 Doves “Caught by the river”

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In the handful of years directly following my and Victoria’s big move to Ottawa, we lived a very frugal life. This was more out of necessity than aesthetic, given my student debt, Victoria’s concentration on finishing her master’s degree, and our measly collective earnings. Still, we often returned to Toronto to visit friends and family, but had to do so by spending the least amount of money possible, and in the periods where we didn’t have our own wheels, this meant long hours aboard the Greyhound bus fleet.

I particularly remember one such trip, an overnighter on the Friday of the August long weekend. And, well, the main reason I remember that it was that particular weekend is that we arrived just as the subway was opening on the Saturday morning and we had to wrestle our way into the subway station amongst the drunken crowds still partying after the opening night of Caribana. It wasn’t a fun experience to say the least, but perhaps I am digressing a bit too much here.

Right.

So I’ve never really been able to sleep on planes or trains, and especially not buses, no matter how tired I’ve been. I’m a pretty tall guy with spectacularly bad posture and can never get comfortable enough to catch proper rem sleep in those seats. However, I hadn’t actually come to that conclusion about myself in those days and still made every valiant effort. That particular evening, I had a new album by a new band in my discman and it went down so well through my earphones on the first spin, I repeated it. And I continued to do so for the entire five (plus) hour trip. As you might’ve guess by now, unlike Victoria beside me, I never properly fell asleep that night, just faded in and out, while the Doves and their sophomore album, “The last broadcast”, guided me through the surreal, not-quite subconscious journey, brightening an otherwise worthless night’s sleep.

This album drew me in and enveloped me for most of the following months. I was in love. I identified them with the dream pop and Madchester bands of the early 90s that I knew and loved. Their sound kept some of the dance aesthetic of their earlier incarnation as Sub Sub but it’s really the layers in the music that define who the Doves are. The music of “The last broadcast” is almost tactile, like running into a massive cobweb that wisps around you and grabs onto you, even as you try to break through it and break it down. It’s great music for driving at night and for listening to with ear phones. Believe me, I’ve tried both multiple times.

The track of our focus today, “Caught by the river”, always reminds me of R.E.M.’s “Find the river”. Perhaps because of the word “river” in the song title or perhaps because it is the finale track of another standout album. Both tracks are the perfect way to close out their respective album.

“You and I
Were so full of love and hope
Would you give it all up now?
Would you give in just to spite them all?”

The undulating strumming of the rhythm guitar emulate the feeling of being cast overboard and caught up in the crashing and splashing waves of a tumbling river. It’s a river in which the water is just fine, the chiming guitars and Goodwin’s soothing vocals ensure just that. And then, the eddies created by all the reverb and effects  just swallow you up whole and let you drift off into eternity. Ohhhhh yessssss.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

 

Best tunes of 1992: #19 New Fast Automatic Daffodils “Stockholm”

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Near the very end of 1994, a bunch of my high school friends and I converged upon the city of Waterloo, Ontario, where our friend Tim was attending university. He was renting half of a house with a couple of friends he had met at school and they had planned for a New Year’s Eve party from which seemingly no one would be turned away. Some of my friends arrived for just the one night but I was amongst a handful that made a whole weekend out of it. We arrived a few days in advance and spent a few days warming up the apartment and our livers, visiting local watering hole, Phil’s Grandson’s Place, playing video games, listening to tunes, and having a lot of laughs. The New Year’s Eve party was epic and one from which I took many days to recover. But that’s a tale for another day.

One of Tim’s two roommates at that time was Mark, whom I’ve since met and with whom I’ve become quite good friends over the years. However, I didn’t meet him that weekend. (He didn’t make it back from St. Catharines in time, due to a miscommunication with the other roommate, Terry.) Instead, I met his CD collection and his stereo, with both of whom I immediately became enamoured. The day after arriving at the house, I made sure to find an establishment from which to purchase some blank cassette tapes so that I could bring home some pieces of Mark’s collection.

One of the albums I recorded from the grand selection on Mark’s CD shelves was “Body exit mind”, the second album by Manchester’s New Fast Automatic Daffodils. I had heard the second single from the album, “Stockholm”, many times over on Toronto’s alt-rock radio station, EDGE 102.1, and had recorded the music video to one of my by now multiple video cassettes filled with music videos, but had never seen any of the band’s music out in the shops. The high quality recording I was able to make of the album spent lots of time in my tape deck in the early weeks and months of 1995, with this particular track getting the multiple rewind and re-play treatment.

For a band so short-lived, the New FADs had a sound that was all their own and produced a hell of track here that made an indelible impression upon me. Not quite Madchester baggy and not quite shoegaze or noise rock, “Stockholm” was all of these. That jangly guitar hook does a freaky dance with a bongo drum and frontman Andy Spearpoint produces an iconic introductory lyric in that drawling sing speak he does. “Lately, lately, I find I rush.” And then he belts out, as much as one could call what he does belting: “Can’t piece together the sun in the sky or the spots on my face.” I don’t know what any of it means but the groove and the noise gets to me every time. It just feels so powerful. And when the gritty guitars chime in at the midway point, you just have to turn it up and close your eyes.

I’ve since thanked Mark many times over for the use of his CDs and stereo and he can only shake his head at the memory of missing that legendary bash.

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

Best tunes of 1992: #22 James “Ring the bells”

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Now that Christmas is all wrapped up, I thought I’d remind you all what’s happening with my Best tunes of 1992 list before I wrap up the other two lists I’ve been blitzing this month. And this is one is pure joy.

Those of you that are not new to these pages will know that I’m something of a James fanatic. I first heard them with their hit single, “Sit down”, and really got into them with the album, “Laid”. Between those two was their fourth album, “Seven”, an album the Mancunian alternative rock band struggled with from the beginning. Half of it was produced by Youth, and only half because they ran out of time with him and given the band’s unhappiness with the results of early recordings. The band produced the rest of the album themselves with some help from Steve Chase. It was finally released almost a year late and wasn’t given the time of day by the music press. However, the band was pleased with the final product and I’m right there with them. I picked it up on CD as one of my BMG music club picks shortly after immersing myself in “Laid” and quickly found my favourites on it, of which this tune is but one.

“Ring ring the bells
Wake the town
Everyone is sleeping
Shout at the crowd
Wake them up
This anger’s deeper than sleep”

“Ring the bells” appears as track two on “Seven” and it sounds like it should’ve been the lead off single, picking up with the uplifting joyous energy where “Sit down” left off. However, they waited and released two other singles prior to unleashing this one. It is frantic acoustic guitar strumming, accompanied by an explosion of sound that will pick you right up out of your seat and get you dancing in a way that you can’t possibly sustain for its five minutes in length. I don’t even know how the band does it. But somehow we find the energy deep within ourselves and lose ourselves to the pure joy that the sounds evoke. Meanwhile, Booth is singing on about losing faith in religion and the freedom that brings and wanting to share it with us all.

The fact that such a tune that I obviously love so much is placed low at number twenty-two should serve notice that the rest of this list is going to be great. Prepare yourselves. It’s all coming in the new year.

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