"Every Scratch, Every Click, Every Heartbeat": The reference is to Elvis Costello's song "45" which, to oversimplify matters, conflates music and life. All the same, "bass and treble heal every hurt" and though this series doesn't feature the dreaded soundtrack to my life, it might be said that each entry spotlights "a song to sing to do the measuring." This time around features tracks from one of the great eccentrics of our time, Stan Ridgway. It's noir or never…
Her name was Miranda. Miranda Wright.
She was arresting, with hair the color of amber waves of grain and big blue eyes like spacious skies. Nothing about her was plain, fruited or otherwise, and God shed his grace further by throwing her more curves than the Grapevine to Gorman. From the arc of her appraising brow to the arch supporting a shapely ankle, she had enough curves to make a cubist put a boot through a Braque. Hairpin curves, bell curves, parabolic curves, logarithmic curves, curves such that the sums of the distances from each point in their periphery from two fixed points are equal. The 12” vinyl curves of a 1985 45 RPM made-in-France Illegal Records Stan Ridgway EP, pre-dating the ex- Wall of Voodoo frontman’s solo LP, The Big Heat.
Every square inch of Miranda was curves.
There had to be an angle.
I suppose, if one was to conjecture a tangential tendency, he or she could make a case for – broaching once again the subject of the self-titled Stan Ridgeway EP – the skinny-tie new wavey instrumental slant poking its anachronistic way into the lyrical noir and foggy forties evocation of Ridgway’s observational, pulp fiction world and Ennio Morricone's spaghetti Western scores. In the songs of Stan Ridgway, the self-proclaimed once-budding ventriloquist from Barstow with the thrilling, throwback crack-wise sneer of a voice — especially as displayed in “The Big Heat” where “there's someone followin' you” — such a who’s-watching-who paranoia is not unlike a Chandleresque mystery where that someone turns out to be a heavy in a black sedan, or the polar opposite: Elisha Cook Jr. with an easily confiscated gun.
Well, we followed him from Tucson, ended up in Baton Rouge
We trailed him with information by
A woman he knew in Barstow that would like to see him dead
That was four weeks ago – well, maybe five
And everybody wants another piece of the pie today," she said
You gotta watch the ones who always keep their hands clean.
It's the big heat, there's someone followin' you
It's the big heat, step aside, we're comin' through
“Salesman” sports an even more ROQ-of-the-’80s instrumental production – though with an appealing sting of a Marc Ribot-style guitar punctuation counteracting the tale of a perpetual peddler (“Pleased to meetcha!”) who keeps “the numbers all up here / I just read the map and steer, that's all.”
But hop aboard the wayback machinations of “Drive, She Said” for a little paginated imagination, femme fatale and all, evocative of a darkly humored Jim Thompson mystery. True to its novelistic structure, the narrative is set up with an intriguing encounter between two characters designed to entice and reward continued and repeated listening for its sustained drollness and enjoyable, B-movie storyline.
Sittin' right behind me
I could smell her perfume
It was somethin' I'd smelled before
Went through a red light
While I spilled my drink
I could feel somethin' sticky on the floor
I said "Miss, you've gotta tell me
Where you wanna go to
I can't keep drivin' round the same block"
So I crumpled my cup
And pulled the gum off my shoe
And then she told me "Just shut up
And keep your eyes on the road"
"And just drive," she said
"Just drive," she said
"Just drive," she said
More than ever, there’s gotta be an angle…