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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wherein Perfection Might Just Be Irony

The new Pretenders' album is o.k. I like a few songs very much. I like the whole of it a little. It just might grow on me, so I'll reserve any scathing reviews or disappointments for a month or so from now when I'm settled into it. For now it's just fine. I have three or four tracks that I really like and I think the rest will be good soon. Does this happen to you? I really need a month or so to digest a new album by someone whose work I know and love.

My favorite track, by far is "Almost Perfect." It's frankly, well... er, almost perfect! Chrissie Hynde's voice is spectacularly melodic, soulful, emotive and wistful. Like Amy Ray on "She's Got To Be," you desperately want her to sing this song to you. The musical accompaniment is simple, it's all about the vocals. And I love songs like that. I also love songs that are all about guitars or all about the tense interplay between rhythm and bass, but there's something about a woman's voice that makes me go all gooey in the right places. What can I say? And a song like this that pushes that voice out there in front, that presents it to you like the way a good dancer presents his partner to the audience, is a beautiful thing to me. It's funny how gendered I think of life, of music despite my best intentions.

But... there's something bothering me beyond all that about this almost perfect song. This song is most decidedly not perfect. Two thirds of the way through Chrissie Hynde clears her throat. (It's a the 3:26 mark if you care to confirm.)

Why did they leave that in the final cut? Is that some sort of joke on the theme of the song? Some sort of nod to the imperfection of it? I know I should overlook it or celebrate the humanity of it or some such nonsense but honestly, it bugs the shit outta me! I realize she made this record in 10 days (foolish woman) but could she seriously not take the time and money to do another take? Tell me why this is acceptable in these days of digital recording. Tell me why this shouldn't matter in this song. Is it irony? Am I, as usual, over thinking the thing? Oh someone, put me out of my misery!

I must say, it's difficult to continue to suffer from a song with the lyrics... "paranoia drug addicted pornographically afflicted ... sleep with me..." If that's not Tart-able, I don't know what is.

Let's take comfort together in my next favorite track, "You Didn't Have To" which is just a lovely, and totally, Pretender-ish love song. The country twanginess of it is complimentary to her slip-sliding vocals. The steady rhythm lets her wander in such a sweet way over the words and notes to tell us how this one let her be just that free. I love that about this song. And in lust and love, I often do feel that kind of gratitude.

Almost Perfect mp3 The Pretenders Break Up The Concrete
You Didn't Have To mp3 The Pretenders Break Up the Concrete
(don't worry, there's more rockin' tracks on the album, I only picked the slow ones)
buy it


Davy H said...

It is certainly a very 'mannered' cough isn't it?

a Tart said...

She's nothing if not a lady, true. I'm choosing to believe that she sat in the recording booth and said, "oh fuck em, it's ironic!" :)