Usually, reading someone's list of suggested CDs for Valentine's
Day is like trying to find a date at a funeral. The problem isn't one of place,
but of context: love, like '80s rocker Pat Benatar sang, is as much a battlefield
as the subject of a romantic sonnet. And wildly subjective. So if you're going
to war with yourself over loneliness or bliss, you want to not only have a suitable
soundtrack, but to make sure it's your soundtrack and not someone else's. I
therefore introduce the following selections as general vibe-inducers; they
are by no means intrinsically romantic or even close to having an adequate amount
of warm fuzzies for a night of wine and, uh, physical collision. But they are,
perhaps more importantly, deeply evocative. In other words, the type of discs
that lovers -- or their broken-hearted doppelgangers -- can gaze at the sky
to as they try and figure our where to go from here. Even if it is oblivion.
Cocteau Twins, Treasure
If you're talking about the lush aura of newly born romance
or heartache, then you're speaking the Cocteau Twins sometimes obscure but always
rewarding language. Led by a legendary songbird by the name of Elizabeth Fraser
and buttressed by the guitar atmospherics of talented gearheads Robin Guthrie
and Simon Raymonde, the Twins spent their decade-plus career crafting the soundtrack
of not only the womb but of the universe in general. And Treasure, like its
title suggests, was their greatest gift. From the rumbling bass and layered
vocals of "Ivo" to the orchestral melancholy of its best track, "Beatrix",
Treasure contains a king's ransom worth of romantic longing, ethereal ululation
and potent musical composition. Guthrie is one of music's more underrated musicians
-- mostly because he never met a gadget he didn't like -- but the Twins' music
has never suffered because of his curiosity; rather, it's only been enhanced
by it. And then there's Fraser, who since the band's breakup has been aggressively
courted by Twins' minor-leaguers as diverse as Massive Attack and Medicine.
She's an unrecognized Wonder of our World; her voice should be in a museum.
If you've fallen recently in our out of love, dig up Treasure. And consider
Right, right. You've seen this band before in these pages, but
considering the subject, it's worth returning to for a refresher. After Pall
Jenkins and Toby Nathaniel suffered simultaneous breakups, they abandoned their
indie rock powerhouse, Three Mile Pilot, for a long, lonely trip down Desperation
Lane and formed Black Heart Procession. The result was four albums exploring
the dark corners and bright promise of love in all its complicated manifestations.
No matter what condition your condition is in, Black Heart has a song for you.
Depressed after a falling out? Then the apocalyptic "The Sinking Road"
will make you feel so sad that you'll feel better. Happy to be together? Then
"It's a Crime I Never Told About the Diamonds in Your Eyes" ought
to communicate that feeling well for you. And while their first three discs
were invested exercises in exorcism -- they were, after all, reductively titled
1, 2 and 3 -- BHP's latest, Amore Del Tropico, stretches out the way you do
after you've come out of the tank after a vicious breakup. There's a bossanova
about love's geography, as well as a "Sign on the Road" telling you
that nobody's coming home. No matter the state of your relationship, Pall and
Toby have been there, written about it, and bled all over it.
Sometimes words weigh too much when you're in or out of love.
They get in the way of your feelings -- as well as the excessive and sometimes
unending analysis of those feelings -- and just make things worse. So get rid
of them -- Mogwai, Scotland's post-rock practitioners of instrumental beauty,
did. Privileging compositional complexity over lyrical redundancy (quick! name
the last original romantic lyrics you've heard
), Mogwai might not have
intended their hard-to-find EP for lovers -- or lovers-in-anguish -- but this
six-song mini-epic has more feeling, poignance and power in it than an entire
lifetime's worth of Paul McCartney's silly love songs. And what's really funny
is that its song titles eschew musical context entirely. "Stanley Kubrick"
and the amazing "Burn Girl Prom Queen" might not read like Shakespearean
sonnets, but they are two of the most gorgeous musical movements laid down in
recent memory. "Burn Girl Prom Queen" in particular swells and recedes
like a lover's sigh or the ocean s/he is adrift upon; I challenge anyone to
find a more moving piece of music anywhere. Mogwai is so good sometimes, it's
scary -- but then again, so is Eros, my friends. If you can find this EP anywhere,
buy one for yourself and your friends. They'll need it sooner than they think.
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Visit Scott at www.Morphizm.com
© Melt Magazine 2003