You keep your distance with a system of touch

This song is a cheesefest. I'm not going to tell you otherwise. I used to be obsessed with the video which features a dork with books, the lank-haired librarian he's crushing on, a chimp doing research, a man playing the synth with one finger whilst rocking massive shoulder pads and a Hasid suddenly busting out on the drums. There's just too much to admire. I mean, really.

Heard outside of its astonishing video concept, a sudden play on your iPod, for example, Head Over Heels reveals something else. The song is basically the sound of a grown man who loves like a high schooler. There's all this awkwardness and beating around the bush; when he finally lets go and really announces his feelings it's less about being in love, or as it is in this case probably, like, than it is about being caught off guard by infatuation itself. And just like a teenager, he's barely talked to the girl and he's already dreaming about time flying and growing old with her. Silly boy, it rarely works that way.

Head Over Heels/Tears For Fears (mp3)

Then again, who cares about immature infatuation in pop form when there's A SIMIAN IN A LIBRARY!

Purchase Songs From The Big Chair

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I'm shootin babies, no ifs ands or maybes

Dear friends,

When it comes to music I think I, like Brad Pitt via Jennifer Aniston via Vanity Fair, am missing a sensitivity chip. Things that people find appalling in mixed company seem perfectly okay to me. It's just art, ya know? Turn up the volume, sing along, as long as children aren't in the room to ask you what things mean, what is the problem? Case in point, I was playing vehicle-DJ in a car full of friends. A song came on that I particularly love. As the booming, cocksure voice filled the car, menacing, playful and ridiculously precise, I felt the other passengers cringing. Not just cringing, but actually shrinking into their seats. My feeling of elation dampened somewhat. It was "Did I say the wrong thing?" in song form.

Dead Wrong (feat. Eminem)/Notorious B.I.G. (mp3)

Yes, everything Biggie says in this song* is hackle-raising, taken seriously or no. It's meant to be. It's a million miles away from politically correct. Nevertheless, it's no different than Nick Cave reinterpreting Stagger Lee. It's a man telling you how hardcore he is. Should you laugh? Should you run? Well BOTH if you so desire. But don't deny it's power.

Luckily, I didn't lose the radio controls that day. By the time Biggie got around to the unexpected and deliciously sing-songy "Because you know I love it young, fresh and green" the ice broke, thanks to some nervous giggles from the couple in front. Point taken though, not one for polite society, best saved for one on one listens.

Buy Born Again by Notorious B.I.G. on Amazon Digital.

Love, D

* Yes, Marshall is in there too. While I'm fond of his verses, with their neat little internal rhymes, they belong in another song entirely. Not really his fault, since he recorded this after Biggie's death so it's not exactly a joint venture. Nevertheless, Eminem's lurid and fantastical story is clearly a character talking. He's playing the crazy man screaming at the walls. Biggie's lines, on the other hand, vile as they may be, are meant as braggadocio. He's play pretending too, the part of the big bad man, but his words are aimed directly at the listener. They seem to come with a little wink and a head nod. Which strangely, make him the more frightening of the pair.

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Going to give this heart away

No, I am not at SXSW. And yes, I've been busy. Have you missed me?

Portishead's Glory Box is a sweet little mystery of a song, enthralling and puzzling. A woman slinks around on the verses, drawling about being some kind of been there/done that vixen and then suddenly jumping up to declare, in a different voice entirely, that possibly YOU are her salvation. This is how crazy people talk. Sometimes crazy is irresistible. Beth Gibbons' vocal is a master class in delivery. When she sings about a thousand flowers blooming, her voice opens up to mirror the line. She is tremulously hopeful, commanding but vulnerable and as the music stalking behind her patently telegraphs, possibly dangerous too.

It would be hard to improve on such a vocal and I'm glad to note that this man doesn't really try.

Glory Box (Portishead cover)/John Martyn

Listening to this cover, I picture an old man at a bar remembering a siren's song and singing it back to himself. It has been over thirty years so he's unsure of the words but he still remembers, with perfect clarity, the look in her eyes when she first touched him. How he felt when she did. He wasn't the one to save her of course. But that's life, right? He's had a few too many, he usually does. The barkeep yells last call, and wisely, he doesn't order. He gathers his tattered things; cigarettes in their almost crushed pack, a tiny pencil used for racetrack forms and errant thoughts, a lone grocery receipt. He makes his way outside, still singing his mumbling version of that long lost tune. The melody fades as he gets further down the wet street. He turns a corner and goes out of sight.

Purchase The Church With One Bell

John Martyn died this year on January 29th. A contemporary of Nick Drake's and in the vanguard of the 60's Brit folk resurgence, Martyn was an innovative singer and guitarist whose own compositions veered from gentle folk pastorales to booze-soaked jazzbo crawls. Do yourself a favor and check out Solid Air. A perfect antidote for what ails you when you're not going anywhere but are still tired and desperately need music for your cooling fire.

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