2007: W14 174 9780
Home is thrilling, the explosion of impatient disgust by a performer trapped onstage before an audience she despises; The Sharpest Corner is harrowing; and Smaller is heartbreaking by its end. But dammit, how I wish Moyet loved to record more stuff along the lines of Its Not the Thing Henry, which kicks ass in the best tradition of danceable rage. Her melodies range from engaging to bafflingly elusive, so this is an album which necessitates repeated playings for at least that reason but get some fresh air between listenings, because its a hot and crowded drama in there.
The albums opening track feels like a bridging from Voice, full of big (if somewhat wandering) melody and orchestration. The first three tracks of this album are almost confusingly pain-free theres more effusive love and happiness in them than Im accustomed to hearing from Moyet. Things return to normal soon enough, however, and the light suddenly changes to dark drama at track #4.
I didnt respond much to Cant Say It Like I Mean It at first, although in retrospect after several listenings I see how I could have done. Lyrically its the sad acknowledgement of the end of a love, inwardly gazing but spoken both to Self and to Other. Its entire latter half, however, is the mantra of the hurt and disappointed, a frankly stated lament thats just so perfectly sad (in the emotional sense) coming out of Alison Moyets throat. There are people who you think youre gonna love forever oh when you should know better you should know better . Some people only see you as a move theyre making another step theyre taking a bet theyre staking . Its so terribly, terribly sad and true. Then again, I can see myself on the other side of the same coin in another line of that mantra: Some people dont forgive you what you give them freely or that you found it easy they want to own completely Sorry, Scot.
The lyrics of Its Not the Thing Henry, are such a tight little encapsulation of an interpersonal dramas exasperated showdown that in comparison to all the vast and profound sorrows and emotions of the other tracks on The Turn this one seems almost like throwaway fluff. But taken on its own the songs quite well-honed, and this recording certainly struts along with impressive self-confidence and angry dismissiveness. Its chorus looks so innocuous and tired in the CD booklet, where the lyrics are printed in run-on fashion as if it were a letter and not an explosive confrontation: Ah Henry, would you look at me? You cannot have it all, and I will not make it easy. Henry, Im not grateful for small mercies, no matter how light the purse is. All the things you need dont mean a thing to meits not the air I breathe, its not the thing, Henry. Another concise gem from that lyric: youve gotta be simple if you think that youre moving more than the ire in me.
Fire is the dark reflection of Anytime at All, sort of a Goth reading of a relationship thats perhaps not going too badly. It sure sounds bleak, but is anything actually wrong? Ours was a cruel exchange / Staying whole or being me and you / Forget, or find a way / To cut a hole that only we pass through. The sense of irreversible damage is much clearer on The Sharpest Corner (Hollow), with lines such as the only smile that lights your face is raised for my disgrace and No love me, love me, love. Hollow. Hollow. And no. No take me, take me in. Hollow. Hollow. Written out it looks like Gertrude Steins territory, but sung its worthy melodrama.
Moyets liner notes on the three songs from the play Smaller are devastatingly helpful; I cant restate them without doing them a disservice. Get yourself a copy of this album and come to know them yourself.
Which brings us to the song Smaller from that play. Now THIS is something Id never concocted in my imagination: Alison Moyet as painted by Sufjan Stevens. What a gorgeous and poignant track. Simplicities and musical symbolism juxtaposed to discreetly maximum effect. And Moyets lyrics deliver one final knife-twist to close the song (and the album) exquisitely. (The bonus track A Guy Like You truly does sound like it was tacked on to fulfill a contractual obligation its not a bad song or recording, but its the only video Ive seen promoting the album and its the odd one out, stylistically.)
Comments © 2008 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.