tremble clef

Monday, March 20, 2006

Strawberry Switchblade, "Who Knows What Love Is?" (1985)

Rhetorical questions can be annoying, can't they? Nothing if not presumptuous, these questions expect no answers. They're just declarative statements masquerading as questions. It may be even more accurate to say that they leave no room for answers: once posed, they barely pause to await a reply, and in barely pausing, create the impression that there can be no answer. Expecting consensus, they create it.

But sometimes there is a flicker of uncertainty, a crack in the veneer. A question, seemingly rhetorical, wishes for an answer, and thereby ceases to be rhetorical. It drops its bravado, which is therefore revealed as false. It stops and waits. Perhaps it had previously tolerated no answer because it dreaded the answer that could come. In such moments, a rhetorical question becomes quite poignant.

The verses of "Who Knows What Love Is?" paint simple, commonplace, even mundane scenarios. Sitting in my front room. Rainy afternoon. Get myself a glass of milk. Flick through a magazine. The lines run on, never breaking at the places you think they would, one sentence blurring into the next: "Sitting in my front room as the/Sun is going down, I'm/Wishing I had someone who could/Maybe come around, Oh but/All I do is watch TV, a/Programme I want to, But/I never see it cos I'm/Thinking about you." The heavenly harmonies reinforce the feeling of fuzziness: words bleed into words bleed into words. Thoughts stray; thus the pages of the magazine "are unseen." And that trumpet, playing forlornly over the rattling rhythm and that xylophone, all encouraging us to drift away, in reverie or in sadness.

"Who knows what love is? I wonder if you do. Who can tell me what love is? I wish it could be you. I wish it could be you."

The chorus, in contrast, is more sharply delineated: no more run-on lines, but questions -- and wishes -- bitten off and articulated clearly. Not the rhetorical queries you might expect, but just genuine, heartfelt questions.

Who knows? Who knows?


  • This is great! Although, I'm not really sure I like the trumpet. I was completely unaware of the existance of Strawberry Switchblade. I think they sound like St. Etienne would have sounded in the (pre-house) mid-80s.

    By Blogger daavid, at 11:44 AM  

  • I almost envy you, in the sense that you now have some discoverin' to do. The band's hits in the 80s were "Since Yesterday" and "Let Her Go," and, more minorly, a cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene." The one and only album is fab, and for a while the Japanese version of the CD was the most expensive CD I ever bought. Sigh.

    The polka dots dressing: somewhat Pipettes too, no?

    By Blogger Brittle, at 5:33 PM  

  • Thanks for the link Brittle, I'll definitely try find some of their stuff!

    By Blogger daavid, at 6:43 AM  

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