tremble clef

Monday, April 17, 2006

Skye Edwards, "Tell Me About Your Day" (2006)

I remember how, in 1988, when I bought the cassette of Everything But The Girl's Idlewild, I was strangely intrigued by the way the lyrics were printed in the inset. The songs, instead of being presented like poems, with appropriate line breaks, were written out as if they were little stories. "When I was ten, I thought my brother was God. He'd lie in bed and turn out the light with a fishing rod. I learned the names of all his football team, and I still remembered them when I was nineteen." Even when a line was repeated in the song, as it invariably would be if it were part of a chorus, the lyric sheet didn't represent this. "When I was seventeen, London meant Oxford Street."

In retrospect, of course, it's a pretty banal thing to be impressed by. It's not as if Ben and Tracey were the first or only band to have done this. But somehow, the way they reimagined the Idlewild songs as, essentially, little prose poems, made them feel much more intimate to me. They seemed like private conversations, whispered by Tracey and Ben, to a teenage me.

That conversational quality is much harder to achieve in song than it might seem. In "Tell Me About Your Day," Skye Edwards -- now away from Morcheeba, and her voice no longer dragged down by their often ponderous triphoppy textures -- sings a song to her lover. They are apart: "I'm so far, so far away from you. All this distance spoils the view." So they talk. She tells him about her mundane day-to-day adventures, and this brings them closer. "I'm in New Orleans. It's just like you'd imagine, places selling jambalaya and cheap voodoo dolls. Old guys busking, little black boys dancing. They've got beer bottle tops on the bottom of their shoes. Everyone is drinking but me. It's St Patrick's Day. Drunken people on the streets, faces painted grassy green. In the French Quarter, a blonde in a red bra waves from the window. It's like a slow motion movie."

In real life, nobody speaks in rhymes. Our lines never scan perfectly, fit exactly into a meter. Those things have to go; indeed, they are nowhere in Skye's song. "As I was walking around, I came across a thrift store. I found a cute dress in there, hanging on the damp brick wall. It's a little bit old but glitzy. I like it. I'm gonna wear it at the show tonight for sure." So there are no real rhymes, just near ones (store/wall). A phrase like "I like it" gets thrown out casually: it hardly fits the meter, but it feels right, because instinctive. Some of the singing is almost scat-like. The instrumentation help tremendously: there is a slinky clarinet motif, playing hazily, and the drums skitter lightly, softly across the surface of the song.

All the touches are so light, so deft, that it's easy to feel that the song is being spontaneously sung. We can barely sense the tranquil recollection that must have come later. For these three minutes, it really just seems like she's simply speaking to us. "Tell me all about your day. So good to hear from you." Tell me bout your day. Feels good to speak to you.

6 Comments:

  • I don't agree with you that "In retrospect, of course, it's a pretty banal thing to be impressed by." It's not banal at all--it's carefully crafted and thought through and you noticed the work. The most popular form of poetry is the song lyric.

    By Blogger harvey molloy, at 6:29 AM  

  • True. I think I'm just more embarrassed by my teenage epiphanies than I should be,

    By Blogger Brittle, at 5:09 PM  

  • To follow up HM's remark, in *my* teens I thought Depeche Mode were so deep (that and Edith Wharton was so right about snobbish people; but then, it was when I was first learning about close reading. So maybe, Brittle, all this makes you feel less embarrassed about teenage epiphanies. You were certainly far ahead of me. Although, at age twelve, I too thought "9 to 5 (morning Train)" was the best thing ever and did not even register the "making love" element until you pointed it out in a previous post.

    By Anonymous aurora floyd, at 11:14 AM  

  • Thanks for this one - it's really nice. Of course, sadly, no one in America will ever think so simply of New Orleans again. Not only do we think of - as Meadow Soprano said on TV last week - "black people clinging to logs", but it now symbolizes many that the govt won't protect us when the big one comes (whatever the big one is).

    BUT I think I may have to get her CD when its out.

    By Blogger xolondon, at 6:19 PM  

  • Aurora: hee. But it really is a lot like life, this game between the sheets! That's what's appealing! Also, people really are people!

    Actually, this blog is very much about the way music can carry all these cheap sentiments: how the right pop song at the right time can feel so ridiculously right.

    xo: I really like the Skye album. I wasn't going to bother, but it has really surprised me.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 6:24 PM  

  • Days later I just have this and "Love Show" and can't stop playing them. It's all about The Clef this week.

    By Blogger xolondon, at 4:55 AM  

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