13
Jan
09

Secondhand Daylight #1: Jane Siberry’s The Walking

I think this will be the start of an intermittent series here at CTRNR – many other bloggers do it, so I don’t know why I didn’t bother with it before. Of course all series but the weekly mix one will be intermittent, but that’s just because I’m lazy and easily distracted (in a rather embarrassing eight-hour binge last evening, I watched a fantasy film marathon on a movie channel, including Legend, The Clash of the Titans, Excalibur, and Ladyhawke). Anyhow, this series, entitled Secondhand Daylight, will be about albums I happen to pick up at used music shops, and considering I pretty much only shop at used music shops (since the closure of A&B Sound, all the music shops that sell brand new music in the city aren’t really worth going into and since my music wants can often be difficult to track down here, I’ve also become an avid online shopper), this series should work out all right. There’s something especially fun about going to a shop that sells used CDs and records – I think it’s that sense of discovering something completely unexpected and possibly life-changing. I’m not being particularly hyperbolic when I say life-changing; after all, I found a copy of Generation Terrorists in a used music shop. There’s also a part of me, albeit a mentally ill part, that feels like I’m rescuing old, unloved CDs and records that have been discarded by their owners. I like cleaning up old discs and cases and giving them a spot on my shelves. While this series will likely feature albums and artists that many of you will already be familiar with, it will be my way of sharing some of that heart-pumping excitement of experiencing a record for the first time.

This first installment of Secondhand Daylight is about Jane Siberry’s 1987 album The Walking, which I picked up a couple of days ago for a mere $5. Having only heard Siberry’s hit song One More Colour, but also knowing that the Toronto-born singer-songwriter was an indie music touchstone, I decided to give this record a go. According to Wikipedia, The Walking was a critical success but a popular failure – a fact that just boggles my mind because I found this album to be very accessible in addition to it being an incredible piece of work. Although, I suppose an album that is composed of eight tracks that average six minutes in length with the longest two being nine and eleven minutes respectively, isn’t exactly standard for a pop record. Nor is the use of several different voices to represent various characters in scattered narratives that take up eight panels of lyrics in the liner notes. In fact, the lyrics in the liner notes are extraordinary pieces of art in their own right with their numerous digressions and literary tricks. Rather than attempt to explain what I mean, you can take a look at the following set of lyrics for the uniquely titled song Lena is a White Table:

first you go up the hill
(don’t forget to say the church)
the church why? i don’t think…
(in case they miss the turn)
let me do the talking
(you make mistakes sometimes)
well so do you too
never let me talk
yaahhh – drink your beer
this is no surprise

they’re always arguing. they’re from down in…
(darts my friend?)
and when you reach the top
out on the scraggy backs just there
say – you must be new
a movie camera! (ooohh!)
WELL – I WOULDN’T GO
(darts?) don’t! (over his shoulder as he goes to play darts)
WHO IS THAT WITH YOU?
(darts my friend?)

how does she hang the clothes
climb up on herself?

there’s a house (white)
a back porch (grey)
just a table there
(don’t forget the laundry line)
yes – nobody knows how far it goes (many men have died
BALONEY/PHOOEY
past the fishing banks
probably past the edge of the earth maybe
OH COME ON

and sometimes there is a chair the table legs they never
move waiting and
pressing and the clothesline stop don’t move

CHORUS:
well, maybe she should go to school
no, no…she’s a table
lena’s a white table

and in the afternoon
and in the autumn air
the porch is bare and still
there is a waiting there
and flint the laundry line
apples rolling down the hill

WINDOW:
i hope that she’s here
what if she’s not here
i don’t think she’s here
i hope she’s not here
don’t you think she’s here
i don’t think she’s here

and sometimes there is a chair the table legs they never
move waiting and pressing and the clothesline stop don’t move

CHORUS:
well, maybe she should go to school
no, no…she’s a table
lena’s a white table
well, maybe she should learn to pray
no, no…she’s a table
lena’s a white table
we saw her waiting by the line
which line? the laundry line
waiting for the clothes to dry
what if she freezes in mid-air?
no no no no no…

As you can see, it’s poetry on the page, using a variety of techniques including stage directions and asides, which become delicately overdubbed vocals from Siberry. With its degree of imagination and scope, this one song is more ambitious than the majority of albums these days. Throughout every track, everyday relationships become cinematic and romantic in their flawed bittersweetness while inner monologues compete with external voices until they are no longer distinguishable from each other and they threaten to overtake the narrator in a heap of breathless emotion.

While the lyrical composition is complex and the musical arrangements mirror their complexity, it doesn’t feel like work listening to this record; instead, this record reminds me of being immersed in Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins at the same time. Composed of several mini-suites, which perfectly suit the myriad lyrical shifts, this album is actually like having an autumnal walk through unpredictable, but gorgeous, sonic landscapes full of bubbling brooks and pollen-drunk bumblebees, sky-rending thunderstorms and dense fogs, melting ice cream and rattling streetcars. Like most great art, Siberry presents you with a view of the familiar in a completely unfamiliar way and under a completely unfamiliar guise. The mundane world and its actors are transformed as though seen through a faerie tapestry. Siberry’s voice reels from operatic to mournfully dissonant to rich and warm like perfect pitch in the pit of your stomach. She runs through serenity, alarm, and bubbly sweetness in the movements that make up just the first song, The White Tent The Raft, alone, and the shortest track, Goodbye, is a fierce scrabble through loneliness as Siberry herself becomes the howling wind keening along the seashore, sculpting the sand as much as her lyrics carve lines on the page. One of the most poppy songs (and one of my favourites) is Ingrid and the Footman, and it recounts an offbeat relationship with a glittering humour and a fantastic exchange between male and female voices before Siberry’s comes in like a gleeful play-acting child.

I’m now very tempted to purchase the copy of Siberry’s Bound By the Beauty that I didn’t bother buying in the same store. Apparently a few years ago, Siberry changed her name to Issa and completely decommodified her life, but I’m thinking I should look into her more recent work as well.

The White Tent The Raft – Jane Siberry

Ingrid and the Footman – Jane Siberry

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2 Responses to “Secondhand Daylight #1: Jane Siberry’s The Walking”


  1. 1 Rol
    January 15, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Nice idea for a feature. I like the idea of rescuing unloved discs from the orphanage of the second hand shop.

  2. 2 Eric Bosse
    March 19, 2009 at 5:24 am

    It’s great that you’ve discovered this lost treasure. It’s a brilliant album, the kind of ambitious art that’s rarely attempted–much less surpassed. I decided to give it a listen, myself, tonight, and I’m surprised to find this record has aged so well (and surprised that I’m so surprised, now that I’m hearing it again).

    Bound By the Beauty isn’t as ambitious, but it’s a fine album in its own right. If nothing else, you’ll love The Life is the Red Wagon. (But there isn’t nothing else.) Thanks for blogging, and happy listening.


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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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

You must let her go

She's not crying

Photobucket

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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