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The List of the Moment; Volume No. 23

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Welcome to the List of the Moment Volume Number 23. No introduction, really – these songs and the entire list will really speak for itself as will the afterward.

"Something More Besides You" by The Cowboy Junkies – The guitar here is amazing, just like the central question raised in this song, which to me is one of their very best. Margo Timmins’s voice, which almost always has that incredible clarity, has it here in such a way that the song has absolute conviction.

The main line is: “Yes I believe there’s a point to what we do, still I ask myself is there something more besides you…” To me, this is not so much about looking outside of a relationship, but “turning away” as she says. After that, the central question remains, Is there something more besides you?

It’s a good one for anyone who has ever been truly grief stricken at the end of a serious relationship, even friendship. If you don’t know this song, because I don’t think it was hugely popular the way say, “Sweet Jane” or “Common Disaster” were, this is one perhaps you want to get your hands on.

Of course, this, like all of the songs on the list, will be on the List of the Moment Section on Tant Mieux for you to take a listen. As with any song, I always recommend  listening more than once, because songs take a while to grow on you. For such a simple song, this conveys a lot.

"Rewind" by Paolo Nutini – Nutini hails from my own hometown of Paisley in Scotland, which I did not know when I first was introduced to his music by a fellow Blogcritics writer. Since then, I can’t seem to get enough of Nutini, who has a sort of Motown sound that is contemporary at the same time.

He’s hard to describe. He’s not at all what I would consider “bubble-gum pop,”  far from it. He’s mellow; he’s serious in his lyrics; and he’s obviously worked hard to get any measure of success. Hey, to get out of Paisley, you have to work hard. I met some Americans there once and asked them, “So what brings you to Paisley?” they replied flatly, “Oh, we’re doing a study in economic deprivation.”

"Rewind" is exactly what it sounds like – if we could just rewind to where we were at the end of a relationship where he is “pickin’ up the pieces of the wreck you went and left,” while he deals with various dilemmas as he sings and tells the tale. This is a real short-story, which Nutini is really good at. Not all singers are, but he paints a real story with his lyrics – each of them generally worthy. “No sleepin’ at night, but I’m going from bar to bar, why can’t we just rewind…” and then he gives the back-story of the relationship.

No matter how he tries somewhat to disguise his accent, it comes through regardless, which to me anyway, makes Nutini all the more charming and recognizable because he sounds like everyone in my family. His album, These Streets, is one worth picking up for virtually every song on there is good, something almost unheard of. Nutini’s other songs have made The List before, but I don’t believe this one has. There is also a great live version of “Cry Me a River” by Nutini if you can find it to download.

"It’s a Wonderful Lie" by Paul Westerberg – Of The Replacements, of course, and if you don’t know the history of The Replacements and the whole Big Star, Alex Chilton lineage and influence then it’s worth checking out. Their song “Alex Chilton” was perhaps The Replacement’s biggest hits in which one of the lines is “I never travel too far, without a little Big Star…” (Big Star is also an amazing group and has and will make the list again, as will Alex Chilton solo).

Westerberg has done well on his own, and while he’s not ‘huge’ in the way The Replacements became soon after their album Pleased to Meet Me released, he is incredibly talented. "It’s a Wonderful Lie" is just what it says – “It’s a wonderful lie, I still get by on those…” To truly convey, here are a few lyrics;

    Get up from a dream / and I look for rain
    Take an amphetamine / and a crushed rat's brain
    How am I feelin' / Better I suppose
    How am I lookin' / I don't want the truth
    What am I doin' / I ain't in my youth
    I'm past my prime / Or was that just a pose
    It a wonderful lie / and I still get by on those

"Summer in the City" by Lovin’ Spoonful – I spent much of this summer in Manhattan doing research and it was hot, hot, hot and this song came to mind. If you remember this song then you will understand. It has that urban grit and the lyrics just get right to the point of the matter and describe it well.

    Hot town, summer in the city / Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
    Been down, isn't it a pity / Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city

    All around, people looking half dead / Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head…

Of course, they do go on to describe the night in the city, which is a different world entirely.  “Despite the heat it’ll be alright…” but it’s a pity that the days can’t be like the summer in the city, so we’re told. Regardless of whether you agree with that (and I don’t, actually) there is something, and I can’t quite say what, rather languid, sultry, almost erotic, about moving through New York’s sweltering heat – but then, that may be more of a frame of mind.

If you’re doing the daily grind, then perhaps not, but I was working and felt this way and everywhere is air-conditioned (overly so).  One only need be in the heat for a few moments at a time. Get too hot, duck inside a building. I can’t mention this song without mentioning Regina Spektor’s “Summer in the City” which is entirely different. Spektor’s song is spoken to an absent lover:

    It's just when it's summer in the city, and you're so long gone from the city
    I start to miss you, baby, sometimes

    When it's summer in the city
    And you're so long gone from the city
    I start to miss you, baby, sometimes…

"Worn Me Down" by Rachel Yamagata – The song talks about having had enough of being used and caving in to various demands, even though they were done willingly.  It sounds as if this woman is tired after having done “everything you told”; the main refrain  is this:

Worn me down like a road / I did everything you told / Worn me down to my knees / I did everything to please / But you can't stop thinking about her / No, you can't stop thinking about her.

 

She’s been worn down to her knees, “I did everything you please.”  She’s obviously tried and tried, but in the final account, the lover — in this reviewer’s opinion — has been used, abused, and taken advantage for his own reasons. He turns his back at the eleventh hour because his mind is still elsewhere and likely he is going to walk, or the person speaking in the song will say, “Enough” (one hopes) and just leave.

A great song, and I thank my friend Patrick in Paris for sending it along, because otherwise I wouldn’t have known of Yamagata. I admit, I didn’t like her so much on the first few listens. I thought she was a bit harsh, but the more I listened, the more I liked until I grew to love this song.

"All the Pictures on the Wall" by Paul Weller – Well, situations end and there are ghost objects left behind. Like the pictures on the wall that Weller sings of here, they “serve only to remind you of it all.” Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship that hasn’t worked out will know what this means. You are stuck in the same space, only it’s not the same anymore because it’s now your space with perhaps photographs, even artwork, but that changes everything. It’s a somewhat bitter song, but I think of it as more melancholy. I’ll let you decide. The first verse:

    And all the pictures on the wall / Serve only to remind you of it all
    The wasted days we could have lived / Now we're left with nothing left to give
    There was a time I really loved you / But when that was I just can't say
    As all the memories merge into one / As each day becomes each day…

It’s the “there was a time I really loved you, but when that was, I just can’t say.” I don’t know if he is saying that retrospectively, or if he is saying it because it’s just the truth. One speaks out of hurt, or perhaps it’s just true. Regardless, while I think the lyrics are crucially important (some disagree with me on this and put the balance more on sound, whereas I think the balance rests equally on both,) the sound is good, very Paul Weller if you know his work at all.  It is very solo Weller, with that inimitable sound.

I am still puzzled why Paul Weller is not more famous or known than he is because I always thought that The Style Council, and especially Weller as a solo artist, was and is incredible.  He has a truly dedicated following, including yours truly (I could tell you stories, but I’ll spare you), but some people, I hate to say this, are just too damn smart to be that successful.

When I look at what does sell and become a hit, nine times out of ten it’s some dreck. Not always so, but I think too often because the public doesn’t’ always want to think about the lyrics, they want something simply bubble-gum and Britney Spears fills that role well and Weller never will. Call me crazy, but I’ll take Weller any day over Spears.

"Moving the River" by Prefab Sprout – This is another band with a great sound, but virtually unheard of by most people I speak with. But then, I could be speaking with the wrong people so I am hoping that my fellow Blogcritics and travelers here will know of Prefab. Another story song – and this one has a great story. “But it’s uphill all the way… you should be used to it and say, my back is broad enough, sir, to take the strain…”

Isn’t that the truth. There are a lot of truisms in this song. It doesn’t beat around the bush much at all, telling us “You’re only as good as the last great thing you did,” and “Have you got a new girlfriend? How’s the wife takin’ it?” I like this song because it’s so damn direct, and like life, we sometimes try to move rivers, which is almost (though not quite) impossible, but damn hard for one normal person anyway. 

It’s a great title for a song because that is often what life is – moving the river. Prefab Sprout also sings "Cars 'n' Girls," supposedly written to/for Bruce Springsteen, which is a very funny, yet serious, song that tells us, “some things hurt more, much more than cars and girls….” There is a sampling of "Cars 'n' Girls," because that’s also a great song, on Tant Mieux and you can listen to them both, but here is a taste of the song for Bruce Springsteen:

    Brucie dreams life's a highway too many roads bypass my way
    Or they never begin. innocence coming to grief
    At the hands of life – stinkin' car thief, thats my concept of sin
    Does heaven wait all heavenly over the next horizon?

    But look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt more much more than cars and girls.
    Just look at us now, start counting, what adds up the way it did when we were young ?
    Look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt much more than cars and girls.

"Allelujah" by Fairground Attraction – Another Scottish band (like Nutini, although I’m not sure exactly where they are from), Fair ground Attraction, with lead-singer Eddi Reader, got their start by playing pubs until they were signed by RCA in the late 1980s. They are known mostly for their song “Perfect” (1988) from their album The First of a Million Kisses, from which this song is taken as well as the line, “We’ll kiss the first of a million kisses.”

This is a quiet and beautiful song and Reader has a beautiful clarity to her voice. Unfortunately, Fairground Attraction was not so big in America, though they reached the top of charts in Europe almost instantly with their album and with the song “Perfect.” Even though "Allelujah" is less popular because it is a quiet song, it was obviously important to the band because, as I said, they named the whole album after a line from it.

They read to me like a prayers, hence the title is perfect in my view.  This is a beautiful quiet song. If you like the Cowboy Junkies, I think you’d like some of Fairground Attraction. It’s more pop than country/folk and has some almost cajun-type influence mixed in, but it is Reader’s voice that brings to mind Timmins and some of the songs on this album as well. To give you a taste, here are some of the lyrics:

    I see you everyday / I watch you as you walk down this way
    We pass on the stairs on this council block / Too shy to find words to say

    But your smile is a prayer that prays for love / and your heart is a kite that longs to fly
    Allelujah, here I am / Let's cut the strings tonight…

"Tomorrow is a Long Time" by Bob Dylan – Talk about missing, yearning, and loving someone – this simple song by Dylan captures it all with just a simple acoustic guitar. He’s unable to sleep, speak, even “hear the echo of my footsteps or remember the sounds of my own name,” but all of this would be different if his “own true love was waiting.” What we don’t know is whether or not this love is finished or continuing. They could be lovers apart like Montague and Capulet, but it would seem these are lovers are parted – that’s my sense of the song (could be dead wrong).

It’s one of Dylan’s quieter songs and not as well-known as some others, but this one is popular enough you can find it to download easily (even from a cell-phone company)! Go figure, I was able to get it through Sprint. I had the albums, yes, but wanted it on my cell/MP3 player. They had it, but they had a lot of the more obscure Dylan songs, so qui sais. "Tomorrow is a Long Time" (which I’ve seen listed as”Tomorrow is a Long Place” also) is another quiet song and perfect follow-up to many of the songs on this list.


Yes, there is a definite theme to this List of the Moment and I need not spell it out; you can easily sort this one out on your own. I say be careful of your heart – and if it’s too late for that, then know there are those who understand and this has been going on for centuries before you.

Yes, I know, little consolation there and you think to yourself, but this is different. I promise you, it’s not really. You could pull a Romeo and Julliette, you may be Dante’s Beatrice or Dante himself. You may find, as I did some research, that you are like a character straight out of Roman or Greek mythology – and I truly am all the way from the origins of my name down to the very players in my life and my very situation. History repeats. Live, learn, but don’t try to control what you can’t. The earth keeps spinning – your only option is to keep spinning with it.

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About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti

  • http://www.jarretthousenorth.com/ Tim Jarrett

    I picked up Cowboy Junkies’ “Lay It Down” for Track 2–“A Common Disaster” got a ton of airplay on WHFS back in the day–but played it over and over again for “Something More Besides You.” Great song.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Hi Tim – A Common Disaster is a great song and did get a lot of airplay, it’s true…. but Something More Besides You is, in my view, an even better song, i think the best on their album and maybe one of their best of all (and there are so many so that’s saying quite a bit….) Are you a big fan? I love Timmins’s clarity of voice…..

  • Steve

    Hey, Sadi,
    Good to have the List back after a summer break!

    Re. Paolo Nutini, I have his first hit “Last Request”, I saw him on the “Late Late Show” a while back. Not bad if you’re in the mood for something slow and reflective.

    Re. Fairground Attraction, I have their “Perfect” single and the Top Ten UK follow-up, “Find My Love”, though I didn’t like them at first, they have grown on me over the years.

    Re. Prefab Sprout, I did like their ballad “Love Breaks Down” single from 1985 (one of the few fave tracks of the 80’s I still don’t have), but I do have their UK Top Ten hit “King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” from 1988. The lead singer, Paddy McAloon, went on to write songs with Jimmy Nail in the 90’s, who is one of my faves (probably as famous for his TV and film work – 90’s “Crocodile Shoes” and “Spender” TV series and “Evita” from 1996 with Madonna as much as his music).

    Re. Paul Weller, has he ever toured the US, Sadi?? I think most British acts don’t do well in N. America because they don’t tour here. Other than one hit wonders, no one can really have a sustained career here in N. America without touring regularly, at least not in the Pop/mainstream charts, even Queen, for example, struggled to have any big successes after they stopped touring here in the 80’s.

  • Steve

    “Other than one hit wonders, no one can really have a sustained career here in N. America without touring regularly…”

    Ooops, what I meant to say was, though one hit/album wonders can be successful in the short term, especially if young, artists that have continued major success in N. America, generally have to be touring at least every two or three years, otherwise, they just don’t get as many loyal fans.

    I’ve never really understood this, not being much of a concert goer myself, as far as I’m concerned, good music is good music, regardless of whether I can see an artist in concert or not. That just seems to be the way it is here.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    hey Steve – Nutini I love. I love “Rewind” and i also found some live versions of him doing covers, one of which is “Cry Me a River” which is pretty great and funny. But I find ‘These Streets’ to be a rather solid album through and through with a lot of good tunes on it. Last Request is prob. my other song that i like as much as Rewind, so it’s hard to choose which i like best since they run neck-and-neck, but yes, they are reflective, moody, but have a sort of Motown sound with a bit of a brogue and it’s lovely, i think.

    Prefab i’ve loved forever. Cars n Girls is a great song (dedicated, of course, to Bruce Springstein) and funny as hell but not in a way if you really listen to the lyrics (“some things hurt more, much more than cars n girls…) ain’t it true. But Moving the River has long been a favorite.

    AS to Weller, yes, of course he has toured N. America – many times, and i have seen him many times. I’ll tell you a brief story. I went to see him several times and he is pretty notorious for not giving out his autograph ans staying away from fans etc.

    Well, i was invited to a show at the last minute and had on khakis and a t-shirt, no make-up, hair in a loose bun – in short, i didn’t look like much. But i went to the show and got up to the front of the stage because i just love Weller. So there he is playing “Sweet Pea” for the first time ever and i’m surrounded by all of these girls in their push-up bras and their layers of perfect make up and coiffed hair, all dying for an autograph and holding up paper and pen and etc, so there i am with one little scrap of paper and a pen and i gently put it in his direction and for some mystifying reason, he comes striaght over to me, flips over the paper (which just happened to be a prescription for valium for my epilepsy – was the only paper i had), he laughed, signed the back of it, put his hand on top of mine, then gave me a big kiss. It was the only autograph he gave the whole show and the kiss was totally unexpected and unasked for but there you have it.

    I think every female at that show hated me – you should have seen the looks i got. I mean, why me???? But there you have it. I can’t tell you why me, but that’s the truth of the matter and i have it to this day – a valium script with Weller’s autograph on the back and the memory of his hand over mine and a kiss. Weird, eh? I’m not into idol worship at all, so it was all very strange, but i didn’t really mind the kiss actually since i admit, he’s a handsome man –

    I love him live. he’s a great performer and at that show he played A Town Called Malice as well, but i remember it most for it was the really the first time he had ever played “Sweet Pea” live (he made a point of saying so) and that used to be my nickname (my cousin used to call me “sweet pea” so it stuck and i thought, How odd… so it sort of became my song in a way).

    I probably have every Jam, Style Council, and Weller disc – followed every incarnation. I never understood why he never had a huge following when he’s so incredibly talented and people like Celine Dion manage to become these super stars. I never get it. Maybe he was bigger back home i would wager than in the U.S. ?

  • Steve

    I recall your Paul Weller story but couldn’t remember whether it was in Europe or US. I do find that singers that have a noticeable British accent when they sing do not fare as well as those that don’t in the US typically.

    OK, Sadi, here are some stats re. Mr. Weller and his various incarnations –

    The Jam (1977-1982) –
    In the US, 3 albums, 3 mini albums and a live album made the Billboard Top 200, peaking between #72 & #176, none of them winning any gold or platinum sales awards.
    No Hot 100 singles.

    In the UK, 6 albums and a live album (not including about 10 compilations released after the band broke up) made the UK Music Week Top 100, peaking between #1 and #22, winning five gold and one silver sales award.
    22 Top 100 singles, peaking between #1 & #40 including four #1’s, winning two gold and six silver sales awards.

    The Style Council (1983-1989)
    In the US, 4 albums and 1 mini album, peaking between #56 & #174, none of them winning any sales awards.
    Two Hot 100 Singles peaking at #29 and #76, no sales awards.

    In the UK, 4 albums and a live album (not including hits compilations, etc.), peaking between #1 & #15, winning 3 gold and 2 silver sales awards.
    18 hit singles, peaking between #3 & #52, winning two silver awards.

    Paul Weller (1991-present) –
    In the US, unless he’s charted something in the last two years, no hit albums or singles of any kind.

    In the UK, 10 albums and 1 live album (excluding compilations), peaking between #1 & #13, winning 1 multi-platinum, 2 platinum and 4 gold awards. Approx. 31 Top 100 singles (not including 2 or 3 reissues) peaking between #5 & #44 (the latter one being your ‘Sweet Pea’ song), but no sales awards.

  • Steve

    I just did some math about the above, Sadi –

    In the last 30 years, he’s had almost 70 (!!) UK hit singles and about two dozen UK hit albums in his various incarnations. Not too many artists out there can say that!!

  • Steve

    Hey, Sadi, haven’t heard from you in a few weeks, hope you’re doing better, any idea when the next List will be??