Tag Archives: Rubber Soul

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Music Review: Volume 3 by She & Him.

SheAndHimVolume3

The 14 songs on this latest compilation by She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) go by in just 42 minutes and 36 seconds, which means the album would have fit perfectly on one side of a C-90 cassette. This is just one of the retro aspects of this release. Deschanel’s focus appears to be on the past, as if she’s piloting a musical time machine. Unfortunately, the machine may be broken as it seems to move all over the place without much rhyme or reason.

“I’ve Got Your Number, Son” is the awkwardly-titled track one and it starts off like a Beach Boys song melded with Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun.” Nice production but Zooey’s vocal is weak and muddled here, as if she had not yet downed a first cup of coffee. The drumming is overly busy and it comes off as a bit too Glee-fully cute for its own good.

“Never Wanted Your Love” is a bit disorienting as Zooey delivers a Nancy Sinatra vocal over an instrumental arrangement that screams out Wham. Wake me up before you go go. The song could have used more lyrics but the repetition is very ’60s/’70s/’80s. The good news is that Zooey delivers some energy here.

“Baby” is what a ’50s love song would sound like if recorded by Fleetwood Mac. The guitars are dead-on Lindsey Buckingham, and Ms. Nicks might think about covering this Deschanel composition.

“I Could Have Been Your Girl” is a good song. But Zooey seems to be straining (a rarity) in the wrong key. The lyrics, “I’d send you the pillow that I cried on…” suggest a song that might have fit on an album by Lesley Gore or Shelley Fabares. This track could have used additional takes before becoming a finished product.

“Turn to White” is Brazilian-style pop and Zooey finally sounds confident. This is her “I’m Still Standing” song: “You’re a distraction from everything I fear…”. Love has beaten her up and knocked her down but she’s not fading away. This is the best produced song on Volume 3 (presumably M. Ward’s on the bass); it could be a film soundtrack song, played during the closing credits.

“Somebody Sweet to Talk To” is also set to a catchy Fleetwood Mac rhythm, it’s kind of like “Everywhere.” The song is about love without obligations: “I’m just asking you to stay for a couple of hours…”. Zooey sounds like a different person here, which is nice, but the song is over in less than 3 minutes.

“Something’s Haunting You” is Zooey’s “Martha My Dear.” There’s a touch of Peggy Lee in the vocal (although some would argue that Lee was never this upbeat) and it would make for a great music video with Zooey dressed as a ’40s chanteuse.

“Together” is a lightweight ’80s pop track. It’s a throwaway song and the nadir of the collection.

“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” is a cover that lacks the heart, feeling and soul of Mel Carter’s recording. This should have been a home run (like Gloria Estefan’s version), instead it comes off as a failed bunt. Zooey’s cover only lasts for 2:40 but, trust me, it feels much longer.

“Snow Queen” is ’50s style. I get that, but I don’t get it.

“Sunday Girl” is another cover, this time of Blondie’s Los Angeles surf-rock love song. Zooey’s vocal comes off as weak compared to Deborah Harry’s and it raises the question as to whether this ’78 song needed to be recorded again. (Probably not.)

“London” is simply Zooey singing over a piano. If the entire album were like this, it might have been near brilliant.

The title of track 13, “Shadow of Love,” looks like it might have come off an Eagles album and the song sounds like a mixture of Roy Orbison, The Eagles, and Jimmy Buffett. This is Zooey’s “Tequila Sunrise” and features the best lyrics on Volume 3: “We built a shadow of love in our hearts where the future should be… There’s no tomorrow to set us free.”

“Reprise (I Could Have Been Your Girl)” is a short vocal exercise by Zooey without lyrics which is interesting, if a bit illogical coming after “Shadow of Love.”

According to the record company, “(Volume 3) features some of the most dynamic, complex songs Deschanel has ever written.” Well, not really. There are so many varieties of style in this collection that one wonders what She & Him have become. Like Los Lobos, their display of musical diversity robs them of a clear, consistent identity. It may be eclecticism for its own sake.

Volume 3 may sell in bunches for She & Him but, overall, it comes off as a missed opportunity. Sometimes less is less, and this album is much less than it could have been.

Joseph Arellano

Note: I remain a big fan of She & Him, but I’d like to see Zooey and M. Ward push themselves to deliver a classic album; one about which people could say, “That was their Rumours, Rubber Soul or Pet Sounds.” I think they have it in them if they treat music as more than just a hobby.

This review originally appeared on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/music-review-she-him-volume-3/

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In My Life

Must You Go?  My Life with Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser (Nan A. Talese; $28.95; 336 pages)

Lady Antonia Fraser has produced a memoir that is a loving and memorable tribute to the late Nobel prize-winning playwright, screenwriter and poet, Harold Pinter.   Fraser happened to meet Pinter while he was married to his first wife.   They spent many hours talking until Pinter indicated that it would be wise for him to return to his home.   This was when Fraser, who was also married, asked him, “Must you go?”   Pinter stayed and this, for all practical purposes, was the beginning of the 33-year-period that they spent together – first as an unofficial couple and then as married partners.

The reader never doubts the accuracy of the events recounted in this memoir, as it was based on Fraser’s daily diary entries (most of which were read by Pinter).   Fraser admits that married life was not without conflict, although they made it a rule to never go to bed angry…  Sometimes this meant going to sleep just before daybreak.   And Fraser admits to never quite knowing or understanding the genius that her husband embodied.   At one point a Washington Post reporter asked her a somewhat absurd question, “What is Harold Pinter like about the house, all those pauses and enigmatic statements, I’ve always wondered?”   Fraser’s response was, “Keep wondering.”

“Living with Harold the writer was a rewarding experience since he behaved exactly like artists behave in books but seldom do in real life.”

Pinter was to find true happiness with Fraser, the love of his life but it may well have affected his creativity.   His initial marriage resulted in several successful plays that revolved around, in Pinter’s words, “unhappy frozen married relationships.”   As he was to admit to Antonia, “Happiness is not dramatic.”   But Pinter was to find a new outlet for his energies and his intellect, and this was in taking positions on the world’s political issues.   He was, in a sense, like John Lennon who took strong positions on war and peace even though he knew it alienated many.   Lennon was to say that this was just the way he was.   Fraser writes of Pinter that, “…he took for granted what we might euphemistically call his outspokenness and could not quite see why other people sometimes objected.”

Pinter was to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at a time, late in his life, when he was too ill to attend the award ceremony.   But he took an ambulance to a television studio in London where he videotaped his acceptance speech.   It seemed that the discontented Prodigal Son had finally been called home.

“Harold and I now love each other more than ever, now and forever.”

If the first two-thirds of Must You Go? chronicles the adventurous life of a man of letters, than the last third documents the struggle of a man who fought cancer and survived it in his seventies, only to eventually lose the good fight.   This last third is a tale of bravery and self-pride and triumph.   Pinter was to leave this mortal coil but only when his body had completely failed him – he never lost his mind nor his heart.   Pinter died on Christmas Eve of 2008.   His life justified the line in one of his favorite poems by Philip Larkin, “What will survive of us is love.”

Highly recommended.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Must You Go? was released by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday on November 2, 2010.

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Into the Mystic

When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison by Greil Marcus (Public Affairs, 208 pages, $25.95)

“To this day it gives me pain to hear it.   Pain is the wrong word – I’m so moved by it.”   Lewis Merenstein, producer of Astral Weeks

listening-to-van-morrison

Greil Marcus has provided the world with a love letter – one addressed to Van Morrison.   Anyone who’s heard Van Morrison’s music is likely to admire this book.   It’s one of the few nonfiction books in which the Prologue and Introduction do not serve as unnecessary baggage, Marcus taking us back to the world of a very young Morrison with Them.

Rough God (the title taken from a line of poetry by Yeats) is a series of essays on the artist as a young and very mature man rather than a conventionally structured biography.   The entire point of the book, however, is to pay tribute to Morrison’s now 41-year-old masterpiece, Astral Weeks.   The producer of the record said that just 30 seconds into recording the album, “My whole being was vibrating.”   Marcus delves deeply into what Lester Bangs called the “mystical awe that cut right through the heart of the work.”

If you’ve never quite understood the meaning of Astral Weeks, Marcus translates it and makes it clear.   This in itself is worth the price of admission, as if one were unlocking the core of Pet Sounds or Rubber Soul.  This work also examines some of Morrison’s lesser known recordings.   Like his song “Domino,” it’s joyful noise.

Recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

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