PERMANENT RECORDS: THE ONE THAT MOST OF US DREAM ABOUT
Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.
This is one of those I warned you about...all about a girl...
40. LONGPIGS - THE SUN IS OFTEN OUT (1996)
Personnel: Crispin Hunt (vocals/guitar), Richard Hawley (guitar), Simon Stafford (bass/piano/hammond), Dee Boyle (drums)
Producer: Kevin Bacon & Jonathan Quamby/ Label: Island/Mother
In the mid-nineties, I was obsessed with this girl that let me dangle for quite a long time. I really believed she was the one, and I was determined to make love happen. When it comes to matters of the heart, I am not one to let the dream die easily. That just wouldn't be romantic.
Anyway, this girl had a voicemail box that I could dial up directly and leave messages on. Often, late at night, I would call and record myself singing songs to her, serenading under her telephonic window. I did it many times, but the only song I remember for sure was "On and On" by Longpigs. Looking back, I'd like to think I sang the whole chorus, including the pre-chorus, "And I wish you would leave me/ and I wish you would go," because that would have really been saying something, but I doubt I did. Instead, I'm sure it was merely a plaintive rendition of the main chorus. "Coz I just can't go on/ So please don't do me wrong/ No, I won't do you harm/ My love for you goes on and on." I can still hear myself, trying to hit all the same cracking notes that Crispin Hunt made sound so effortless, my strained vocal chords instead making it desperate. If I were on the other end, I probably wouldn't have called me back either.
At the time, I was so off my head, I didn't really grasp how apropos the song was to my situation. "All the songs that I've sung you/ More often than you know/ You're the love that I've clung to/ More often than I've let it show"--though obviously I let it show too much. I saw "On and On" as a tribute to undying love, the final defiance of a gangly romantic who wasn't going to accept that relationships were no longer permanent. Somehow, I must have grasped the one-sidedness of the tune. Even if the part of me sitting up front chose to polish the edges off, how could my subconscious miss lyrics like "There's no one else I want beside you/ Give me your coldest shoulder to cry upon/ You're never anywhere I find you/ You're never anything I rely upon"? Some part of me deep down still cared enough about the Jamie S. Rich machine to try to send myself a warning message. Too bad it took ten years to decode it.
Listening again to The Sun is Often Out, it's obvious how it came along at just the right time to provide me with solace. The theme of the album is one of disconnection, of the things that keep two people apart. "She Said" is the song for every boy who has known a girl who he knows is beautiful, but who can never see herself the way he sees her--but it's an answer song with only the question. There is no male point of view, only the things "she" says, her tales of disguising herself with clothes and perfume and other trappings because she can't stand being who she is. "All Hype" follows the one-sided love affair of "On and On" with its wounded cry of, "Oh, for heaven's sake, I needed you today." Sometimes you find you just don't get what you need.
Even the videos drove all this alienation home. For their single of loneliness and obsession, "Lost Myself," Crispin Hunt stands at a telescope, spying on the girl who "sold herself on the one love," the distance keeping them both from pursuing the faded fantasy of modern relationships. He can't live alone, but he doesn't have the guts to traverse the chasm. "I have always found it/ easier to dream about it."
Which isn't to say that The Sun is Often Out is all doom and gloom. The title is not meant to be entirely ironic, nor the cover homage to Sunset Boulevard an entirely negative statement. The floating body has a suitcase in his hand. We're going to drown in this emotion in order to get somewhere, this is traveling by feeling. Songs like "Jesus Christ" and "Elvis" lash out, sonically and lyrically. They sound like a band in a straightjacket thrashing about, trying to find the tune that will break them free. The guitars are all angular, the drums frenzied, the titular references blasphemous. "Jesus Christ, you give me some hope," Hunt sings, and does he mean it as an appeal to the man upstairs or is he breaking the fifth commandment? "Far" revels in a kinky rush, absent of heartbreak, more mercenary in how many times Hunt can declare "I'm in love again," as if each time is different than the previous. In "Sally Dances," he recognizes the hurt of his partner in their twisted tango, but he's not going to let the bad times scare him away. He'd rather grab her and hold her until the manic outburst passes than go away and leave her with her pain. This is what is meant by The Sun is Often Out: no matter how bad it gets, there will always be times where it works.
And as a piece of music, The Sun is Often Out does work. For as much as it often sounds like the band is going to veer off into chaos--think the extended outro to "Elvis" or the shambolic, crashing finale of "She Said"--there isn't a point on the record where a note isn't placed exactly where it's supposed to be. Longpigs have set up their microphones at the center of an imploding heart, and they've captured it all. It's a little like Radiohead, but where that band could have ended up after The Bends if they had decided to cut loose and let it all hang out rather than become precise and studied. Sure, such indulgence of feeling leads to excess, but as any who have felt the sting of lonely teardrops can attest, you can't help it when you hurt too much.
As I am sure anyone can guess, it was never successful between that girl and I. Eventually, it burned itself away, and I got over it. I did, however, get to see Longpigs live, and the barely contained mania of their musical tornado was present on stage. They only had one more album in them, and have since gone on to other things (most notably, guitarist Richard Hawley made several highly acclaimed solo records after a stint as a member of Pulp), and it probably should be no surprise. They burned too hot with the schizophrenic passion of the kinds of love affairs they wrote about, and doing that night after night in front of audiences with varying levels of interest (again, not unlike inconsistent lovers in the face of consistent love) seems like it would destroy you. Even though their second record, Mobile Home, wasn't nearly so heavy, I imagine they had to get away because the simple sight of one another served as a reminder of how much it hurt.
But at least we have this lovely album to remind us of when we were still together.
Reminder: Look, you can buy this album for less than a buck, and as always, this post is full of links to Amazon--a click on any one of them when shopping, and Amazon will shave a few pennies off their take to give to me. So, if my reviews make you all hot and bothered and you just have to own one of the things I'm talking about, use my link and contribute to buying me more stuff to review. (Those reading a Live Journal feed will likely have to click to the actual blog page first before heading over to Amazon, though.) Either way, thanks for reading.
Current Soundtrack: The Sun is Often Out
Current Mood: frustrated
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich