tremble clef

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Jimmy Somerville, "But Not Tonight"/"Under A Lover's Sky" (2004)

At the end of 2004, Jimmy Somerville released his fourth solo studio album, and pretty much no one cared.

Some of this was due to the fact that the record, called Home Again, was done for a small label (Jinx Music) and released in only a few countries. I've only seen it in two shops: one here, and the other in DC, in a store that partly caters to Teh Gays (I know it's a bit quaint, in this day and age, to talk about real live breathing record stores). The other reason for the indifference, perhaps, is that the quality of Jimmy's work has deteriorated. I enjoyed his first two solo albums: Read My Lips was a great debut in 1989, and 1995's Dare To Love, though containing a few duds, was a pretty solid album. But Manage The Damage was a listless affair, and the US-only b-sides and remix collection that followed, Root Beer, bit long and hard. Given the time Jimmy takes to put out albums -- though I don't begrudge his stated desire to have a personal life -- this meant that it has been almost ten years since his last good record. That's a long time to expect the public to keep caring, Jim.

Home Again is a bit of a mixed bag, and as a whole isn't as good as the first two albums, but probably better than Manage. Still mindful of the way his biggest hits have been Motown covers, there is the obligatory dance version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." There are a couple of obvious "big" tracks: the single "Come On," which you can hear at Jimmy's website, uses a rubbery electroclashy bassline that recalls "Can't Get You Out Of My Head." And were it not for the useless lyric (platitudes about how "you're gonna reach for gold" -- was this written for the Olympics? -- and, generally, a declaration of love that comes across more threateningly than it should), and the way the track fails to soar like it should in the final few minutes, it could have been a contender.

And then there's "But Not Tonight." Yes, It's a cover of one of Depeche Mode's finest moments. But it is Not Good, folks. Although it's possibly so bad that it ends up lapping itself to become good again. Things start promisingly enough, with the keyboard riff of the original getting punched up to 10 on the Eurodisco scale (possibly even to an "11" -- it's a bit Crazy Frog). Jimmy starts singing in his natural, lower voice, which is well and fine; he's done that to good effect on several older tracks. But perhaps feeling too unadorned in that lower key, Jimmy over-caresses some words, placing too much stress on the end of lines like "my pleasure at being SO WET!" or "I'll get away from this constant DEBAUCHERY!" with the result that he sounds like a perv wraggling his eyebrows at you. More inexplicably, at several points in the song Jimmy shifts without warning into his falsetto. Not a bad idea in itself, but they are such random moments (is "the moon is shining in the sky" an especially ecstatic line which needs such emphasis?) to make it seem like he was merrily singing along, and then someone grabbed his balls and squeezed too hard.

But the lovely moments on the album are quite lovely. The bleepy and dancetastic opener, "Could It Be Love"; the simple but sublime "It Still Hurts." But the best song for me is "Under A Lover's Sky." Sung right by Jimmy: with a growl in exactly the right place ("roars like thunder"), and a kind of stretched tremulousness in others ("We live to live our lives/Satisfied that the risssssiiing"). Most wondrously, each chorus is backed by an ascending pizzicato string passage (synthesized -- we're on a production budget here) that keep tugging at the melody and lyric, urging them to go higher and higher; indeed, after the second chorus, the passage stays around for the middle eight, as if unable to be contained. "So tonight let freedom play/With our hearts till break of day/And forever stay a part of me." In moments like this, old Potato Head doesn't need to coast on the goodwill he's engendered from his Bronski Beat and Communards days, but just seems like an old friend who's a friend again.


  • Hmmm. DC? I bought this at Melody - is that where you saw it? I was shocked when I saw it b/c I didn't know it existed.

    And then I sold it like 2 weeks later, so I could make good money on it! It sucked! Maybe he needs the Trevor Horn treatment.

    By Blogger xolondon, at 6:37 PM  

  • Ha! That's exactly where I saw it. I didn't buy it cause it was at a steep-ish import price, and indeed, found it for less money later. But imagine: you probably touched something that I first touched. Gasp! Tell your friends!

    By Blogger Brittle, at 6:49 PM  

  • I was merrily reading along, until a certain sentence grabbed my balls and squeezed too hard. Ouch.

    By Anonymous esque, at 9:20 PM  

  • I'm the ball-bustingest writer in the wild wild web.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 10:57 PM  

  • Maybe I have touched YOU and we just don't know it?

    By Blogger xolondon, at 12:18 AM  

  • Oh baby, if you've touched me you would know it.

    There would be scarring, for instance.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 1:40 AM  

  • I am rubbing vitamin E oil on myself to this day...

    By Blogger xolondon, at 9:54 PM  

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