Occasionally my wife reminds me that all the good music drifting through our house doesn’t originate solely from my CDs. She has a habit of telling me things I don’t want to hear.
Once, she told me that she heard of REM before I did. I scoffed at this. I had naturally assumed that she liked them because I, her boyfriend, liked them, and that she’d follow me anywhere. Or something like that.
The city we’re in is known for its music scene, but our radio stations were and are still pathetic. But the Mrs. reminded me that, at the time, her job took her out of town, where she got the reception to bring in the station that played “modern rock”, like Depeche Mode, the Cure, the Smiths, U2, New Order and, um, REM. So while her assertion can’t possibly be right, it might be technically true.
But back to her first assertion. She reminded me of an album she got that I had held out little hope for, Ian McCulloch’s “Mysterio”. Ian played guitar for Echo and the Bunnymen, a band I’ve never quite gotten. So the idea of sitting through one of their solo albums wasn’t very appealing to me. I was resigned that the ongoing pollution of my record library was to continue in this way. (It all began with the Great Merge of the record collections that took place right after we got married.)
I like my guitars chiming, which is why I don’t really love grunge or heavy metal the way I’m supposed to. Those bands play chords that are heavy and flat, more percussive than tuneful. The distortion dulls and limits the sound rather than expands it. Power chords without any real power.
But Ian likes his guitars chiming, too. And echoey! He seems cool to an old guy like me because he’s got that “modern” sound that’s been around for about thirty years now, and although there are three guitar players, this record’s bigger on tone than on decibel. Spacey rather than loud, it can be played at any volume and it sounds good. If you have company over, you can lower the volume and still hear the higher trebly notes. If you want rock and roll, you can turn it up and make a good noise. It’s a great record to put on during the summer with the windows wide open.
Something tells me to avoid delving too much into the lyrics. Ian only puts one verse of each song in the booklet, as if to say, c’mon, you’re here for the guitars! One of them goes:
“one and one and five make seven,
One and one and three make five…”
Although I can’t fault the arithmetic as such, I’ll assume that there’s some algebra that brings it all together eventually, but I haven’t noticed it yet. The rest seems kinda portentious, or pretentious, or something, I don’t know. So there’s a silliness factor to be considered, or ignored. And if the guitars sound good enough, I say ignore away.
This record has made me slightly more inclined to try out Echo and the Bunnymen, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. For now, Ian McCulloch by himself is just the right combination of silly and fun. One guy can take himself too seriously if he plays real good. I don’t know if I can deal with four of them, though.
Despite all my snide remarks to the contrary, I have to admit that this is a very easy record to listen to. So, in the words of many a husband before me, Yes, dear.