tremble clef

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Army Of Lovers, "My Army Of Lovers" (1990)

In the course of packing, I've had to go through my music tapes to see if I could -- yeah, I still have cassettes. I am old. DO YOU WANT TO MAKE AN ISSUE OF IT!? Because I will beat your punk adolescent ass with my walking stick.

So, among these tapes are some compilations I'd made. Nowadays, of course, making a mix is simply a matter of dragging tracks onto playlists, and hitting the virtual "burn" button. Not too long ago, kids, it was a more precarious task. You had to plan out the running order; go "one-mississippi-two-mississippi..." in between the tracks, to ensure that the right amount of silence got in there; grind your teeth as you nervously wonder if you can really squeeze that last song onto side A before the tape runs out, because the entire story you are trying to tell would be absolutely ruined if that track should get relegated to Side B, and God I am getting an ulcer just reliving it. But if this all added up to make it a more stressful task, it was -- at the risk of romanticizing the "good" "old" days -- therefore also a more loving one.

There are longer stories to tell about compilation-making (and once upon a time, elsewhere, I told several such stories before everyone got bored). But let's focus for now on this particular tape. Here is the tracklist:

Side A. 1. Pet Shop Boys, "Being Boring" 2. Prefab Sprout, "We Let The Stars Go" 3. Lloyd Cole & The Commotions with Tracy Thorn, "Big Snake" 4. Tanita Tikaram, "Twist In My Sobriety" 5. Banderas, "It's Written All Over My Face" 6. Electronic, "The Patience Of A Saint" 7. Dusty Springfield, "Daydreaming" 8. Everything But The Girl, "Meet Me In The Morning" 9. Andy Pawlak, "Love Letters" 10. Praise, "Only You" 11. Army of Lovers, "My Army Of Lovers"

Side B. 1. Massive Attack, "Unfinished Sympathy" 2. David Bowie & The Pat Metheny Group, "This Is Not America" 3. Strawberry Switchblade, "Who Knows What Love Is?" 4. Pet Shop Boys, "Your Funny Uncle" 5. ABBA, "Like An Angel Passing Through My Room" 6. Bananarama, "Ghost" 7. The Dream Academy, "It Will Never Happen Again" 8. Neneh Cherry, "Move With Me" 9. Pet Shop Boys, "King's Cross" 10. Dusty Springfield, "Nothing Has Been Proved" 11. Boy George, "The Crying Game" 12. Tracy Huang, "For Love"

I made this tape in 1990 or 1991, for a specific and slightly exciting purpose: a friend of mine was holding her first one-woman photography exhibition. I was of course very happy for her...but even better, here was my chance to program the music for the opening! Of course, I am not sure if I asked her whether she needed music for the occasion. But I certainly showed up with this tape in hand. She may be the artist, but I created art in my own way too, you know, with my mad compilin' skillz.

And I do still really like the mix. At first sight, it might seem that the presiding spirit of the compilation was, straight-up, the Pet Shop Boys. And, no shit, it's a bit embarrassing how ubiquitous they are, not only contributing three of their own songs, but also popping up on Electronic's, Boy George's, and Dusty's two tracks. Like, did I have any other music? But in reality, the PSB just happened, at least in my mind back then, to be the most available personification of the sonic theme I wanted for the compilation, which was this: moody electronic tracks with Huge Synth Washes. On most of these songs, it sounded like the artists created the backing tracks by simply holding one key down on their synthesizers, and maybe changing their finger position every twenty minutes. The effect, quite uniformly, was sweeping, lush, dreamy. It would be, I thought, the perfect kind of music to soundtrack all those people in the gallery as they walk, in melancholic slo-mo, from photo to photo. That's what happens in galleries, right?

Great theme, although it was in the end not as persistent as it could have been. There are some tracks on the tape that are basically just ballads ("Meet Me In The Morning" was a tinkly one and Bananarama's rare b-side a spooky electronic one, but Andy Pawlak's -- a little known singer on whom I need to do a full-on post some day -- was just piano-based). And there is also that detour into new agey Enyaism with Praise's track. But the songs were all dreamy, even when that dreaminess -- there's even a great track from the Dream Academy! -- came from touches other than a synth wash. (I have also, independent of this context, written about a couple of the songs.)

I think that the song that best captures the feel of what I was trying to do is "My Army Of Lovers," quite possibly my fave thing by Alexander Bard's old group. That's saying something, since I would therefore be ranking it ahead of "Crucified." Sonically, it's a pretty atypical track for them, not being a Hi-NRG stomper. Lyrically, however, it's as nonsensical as the rest of their work, although it does at least allude to the Theban army of gay lovers from which the group took its name. But I love it in all its vague pretensiousness, from the opening lines ("A time to go, a time to live, a place to be, a love to give") to the spoken French bit in the middle. Even the weird "eek eek ah, eek eek ah" refrain is oddly moving, and the little piano riff, which interrupts and gives color to the otherwise dominant synth washes, thrills me even now. Can't you imagine how perfect it sounded in the gallery? I wonder which of my friends I can convince to put on an art show, which can't be difficult, just so that I can do this again.


  • That mix tape? You. Are. Me. (nn the other side of the world, that is)

    I TRUST you are moving to 18th St NW?

    By Blogger xolondon, at 12:07 PM  

  • If you have the Andy Pawlak album on CD, then we should get married. (If you've just heard of him, then we could maybe settle for a long engagment.)

    By Blogger Brittle, at 12:44 AM  

  • you should score one of the openings at Kapok...

    By Anonymous arnault, at 11:53 AM  


    By Blogger Brittle, at 9:56 AM  

  • That segue from "Your Funny Uncle" to "Like An Angel" is just stunningly brilliant.

    By Anonymous esque, at 6:05 AM  

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