18
Mar
08

Telling Stories, Feeling Human: Vanilla Swingers

Just over a week ago, I received an email in my inbox from Vanilla Swingers. To be honest, being new to the world of music blogs and not getting many artists contacting me, I almost deleted the message, thinking it was some sex organization for caucasian people. Thankfully, I looked at the subject line a little closer and realized that it wasn’t spam, but a message from a UK musical duo called Vanilla Swingers in which they offered me five sample tracks from their self-titled debut album which will come out this May. I was going to wait until I got the album proper before writing anything, but I liked these tracks so much, I figured I’d write about them now. I can always elaborate later when I receive the full album.
Consisting of Anne and Miles, Vanilla Swingers produce delicate, bittersweet music in a style similar to both Stars and Black Box Recorder with undertones of Pet Shop Boys. Their album was recorded with Ian Catt (Saint Etienne, Stars) and mastered by Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low) and it is a concept album that tells “the story of two people who meet, run away, go back in time, lose each other, and meet again in 2015.” I can’t say I hear too many concept albums these days, and I think this particular idea is an intriguing one for me. And I’ll tell you why.
Vanilla Swingers is largely based on John Gray’s book Straw Dogs, a piece of philosophy which questions the myth of Humanism and asks why humans believe themselves to be so much more superior to animals when they rarely achieve what they’re believed to be capable of. In essence, he turns the myth of human progress on its head. According to an interview done by Rock Sellout, Miles says: “lyrically, besides the story, you might say it’s about the differences between what people actually achieve, what they could achieve and what they believe ‘humanity’ can achieve. The idea of humans being the authors of their own destiny is a powerful myth, probably one that would be difficult to live without. Then there’s a bit of romantic love in there – another myth, if you like, and another one without which things would be pretty bleak. It’s a cliche but I hope it comes across that there’s redemption in beauty and in the whole mess of what it is to be alive and reacting to all the contradictory impulses that make us what we are.” So, it appears that Vanilla Swingers sets out to achieve quite a lot while knowing that their very achievement will be another myth. Heady, but brilliant stuff.
I’m hugely impressed by the lyrics of all of the songs, which you can peruse on their Web site. The first song, The Town, of which I only have the lyrics, already grabs my attention and my emotions with its bleak urban/suburban imagery. Echoing Morrissey’s apocalyptic seaside town, The Town reads: “There’s a cone in the river and a Safeways trolley overturned/By the pre-postmodern business centre someone forgot to burn down.” Thankfully, the music lives up to the promise of the lyrics as I listened to the next song, Like Straw Dogs. It obviously namechecks John Gray and Miles’ heartbreaking vocals begin the musical dialogue with “All I have is words, words that don’t obtain/And I feel I’m a stain on your horizon/So I stay away – it’s easier that way/And there won’t be no-one I need to rely on” before Anne comes in with “Is it him, is it me/Or is there something only I can see.” The strains of a relationship wrought out of myths about identity are felt in every strain of the music and turn of vocal, and hesitant piano blossoms into hard guitars. In a reponse to and as a relief for these tensions, I’ll Stay Next To You begins with a crash of thunder, and then drives along to a bassline that mimicks the restless spirit of running away from the terrors and mundanity of reality, which could very well be the same thing. The end of the song echoes that deadpan observational rapping Neil Tennant does in West End Girls before it enters a jamming outro.
A couple of songs later, Danger in the Past begins with a sample from Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love and a host from Top of the Pops – a contrast to the gloom of the present, but also a reminder of the artificiality of romantic love mythmaking and the shiny false promises of the ’80’s themselves. Then the song kicks in with beautiful hushed vocals by Anne, who is soon joined by Miles in mourning infected hearts and careless memories in a hypnotic, lush melody. For the moody, swaying The Way She Walked Out the Door, Johnny Brown of The Band of Holy Joy steps in with vocals, words and melody, providing an interesting interlude between the lover characters from the other songs and almost acting like a narrator. In the second last song, Goodbye Lennon, against the ticking of a clock and a heartbeat, Anne sings, “It’s thirty years since ’85/Robbie’s dead but Pete’s alive/Or so the weblogs say/But no-one’s reading them.” The mechanics of humanity’s progress provide a counterpoint for its very heart as the world continues to lose itself in celebrity myths until it can’t be bothered to know anymore. And although everyone’s lost in this future, the lovers have lost themselves in each other amidst surging synths and chiming chords. Ultimately, we tell each other and ourselves stories in order to survive as a species.
I’m quite excited about hearing the full album. In the end, somehow Vanilla Swingers still make me believe in love. Even after they’ve dissected the myth and torn down what it means to be human, I feel more human than ever listening to it.

I’ll Stay Next to You – Vanilla Swingers

Danger in the Past – Vanilla Swingers

The Way She Walked Out the Door – Vanilla Swingers

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

Photobucket

All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

Photobucket

Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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