Inherently Sexy Barley Fields – Quotes By Sting

I’ve been covering Sting on this website this week: I generally find that his solo career is under-rated – while The Police have great singles, their albums usually have a lot of filler, and the terrific 1992 Greatest Hits is all I need from them. But Sting has a couple of albums that I enjoy right through – 1987’s …Nothing Like The Sun and 1991’s The Soul Cages.

One possible reason that Sting is under-rated is that he often comes across as a little pompous; I think he has issues with self-filtering. Here are some examples:

I asked my dog what he thought the best in man
He said, “The love you dispense to me twice daily from a can.”
Lyrics from ‘Conversation With A Dog’

Success always necessitates a degree of ruthlessness. Given the choice of friendship or success, I’d probably choose success.
– Sting

“I don’t give a fuck about rock & roll,” Sting declared unequivocally in 1987. There was, he complained, “no new fuel in rock music.” Instead, he said, musicians should be looking outside of rock to African, jazz and even classical music: “Anything! Anything will do.”

The outcome was predictable
Our banditos were despicable
Of blood we lost a dozen litres
A small price to pay for los senoritas
Lyrics from ‘Love Is Stronger Than Justice’

In England, our house is surrounded by barley fields, and in the summer it’s fascinating to watch the wind moving over the shimmering surface, like waves on an ocean of gold. There’s something inherently sexy about the sight, something primal, as if the wind were making love to the barley.
– Sting

The title comes from Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 130 (“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”), which Sting used in the song “Sister Moon”. He added that his inspiration for this was a close encounter with a drunk, in which Sting quoted the sonnet in response to the drunk’s importunate query, “How beautiful is the moon?”
– Wikipedia

It’s no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Nabokov
Lyrics from ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me

Do you have any favourite clunky Sting lyrics? Can you stomach his solo career?

Three Great Albums – Marquee Moon, Spilt Milk, and Southeastern

I’ve had a lot of time for writing recently; some leave and then a work trip with long haul flights and time in airport lounges. Lately, I’ve made several pages for acts with only a handful of albums to their name. These three acts have commonalities; they’re all white, male American acts, although they’re operating in different genres and different eras. The most striking similarity is they all have small discographies, and each has one album with a clear consensus as their best. While I don’t always agree with canon, in each of these cases, I concur with the consensus, even though all three have other enjoyable albums.

Television – Marquee Moon (1977)
television-marquee-moonThe CBGBs Club in New York spawned a diverse collection of great bands that helped to define the punk and new wave genres. Television’s distinctive feature is the guitar interplay of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, exemplified on songs like the epic title track. If you can tolerate Verlaine’s strangled vocals, Marquee Moon is a masterpiece.

Jellyfish – Spilt Milk (1993)
jellyfish-spilt-milk1990’s Bellybutton was a perfectly serviceable record, but in hindsight it sounds like a practice run for the ornate Spilt Milk. The stacked harmonies and heavy guitars of Spilt Milk are like a power pop take on Queen, with great songs like ‘New Mistake’ and ‘Glutton of Sympathy’.

Jason Isbell – Southeastern (2013)
southeasternIt’s somewhat cheating to include Isbell in this list, as he’s released five albums since leaving the Drive-By Truckers, and has another due soon. But his first three albums were released with The 400 Unit, and featured a sub-optimal Isbell. Before Southeastern, Isbell became sober, and personal songs like ‘Elephant’ are devastating, although my favourite is the rock of ‘Flying Over Water’.

Are you a fan of any of these albums?

New Zealand Music Month

Each May is New Zealand Music Month. It’s a promotion that has outstayed its welcome, especially as New Zealand has outgrown the cultural cringe for homegrown music that was evident in the 1960s and 1970s. But, perhaps not coincidentally, I’ve been covering three of New Zealand’s most prominent mainstream musical acts recently, and between them they actually do a good job of showcasing New Zealand’s diversity and musical history from 1972 to the present day.

Split Enz: 1972-1984
Split Enz started as an arty band, like a New Zealand answer to early Genesis, but found their biggest success with new wave hits like ‘I Got You’. Here’s a song from their early career with Phi Judd fronting:

Supergroove: late 1980s-1997
Supergroove were a party band, but they were a smart party band, taking the funk/rock/hip hop hybrid that was popular in the early 1990s, and producing anthems that were huge in New Zealand but didn’t enter the mainstream elsewhere. Maybe they were a year or two too late, and the music landscape had darkened with Nirvana by the time of 1994’s Traction, but songs like ‘Scorpio Girls’ could have been huge hits.

Bic Runga: 1997-present
I dismissed Bic Runga at the time of her first album; the monotonous arrangements of Drive didn’t do her any favours. But with 2002’s Beautiful Collision, her poppy sensibilities were at the forefront, and she’s the reigning queen of New Zealand pop. ‘Winning Arrow’ features Split Enz’s Neil Finn on piano, and Anika Moa, Anna Coddington, and Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer) on backing vocals.

These three acts are ubiquitous in New Zealand; for example when our modem at work was playing up last week, when I went downstairs to check it, Supergroove was playing, and when I called our ISP, Split Enz was the hold music. But as much as I don’t like to admit it, New Zealand has under-achieved at popular music – these three acts all have their foibles, with Split Enz’s discography inconsistent, Supergroove short lived, and Bic Runga not very prolific. But they’re three of our better acts to infiltrate the mainstream, and I’m curious if people have heard of them?