14
Apr
10

A Valuable Other to Everyone: The Indelicates’ Songs For Swinging Lovers

I had to come out of hiatus for this. Look at that album cover. How could I deny those puppy eyes and broken necks? Then there was the press release, which read:

Songs For Swinging Lovers is a stunning, diverse and intellectually complex record that marries the band’s trademark lyrical precision and songwriting skill with a broad palette of musical styles and influences. The strains of country, Weimar cabaret, holy bible-era manics, belle epoque cafe music, Muder (sic) Ballads-era Nick cave, 90s indie and 70s sleaze can all be heard in the arrangements.

My pulse actually turned to alka seltzer in my veins after reading that. It’s been over two years of admiring The Indelicates for their unpretentious intellect, their poetry, their leitmotifs, their dedication to critical thinking and dark humour. Now I can add new media warriors to their laudable qualities. I’m not overly passionate about most causes, but the one that I have been perhaps the most vocal about (well, my typing has been pretty deafening) is the paradigm-rattling effect of new media, especially on the music industry and the copyright vs privacy debate. I’ve been blathering on for years about the flaws in the music industry, about the McLuhanesque impact of the MP3 file, and about copyright laws in a digital world and the outdated metaphorical language that they are built upon. Here’s a band of artists that has taken a similar stance and used similar arguments to achieve something much more than a semi-academic blog rant. Instead, they have birthed Corporate Records and a praiseworthy sophomore album. As I’ve stated before, they are truly multidisciplinary in their branding and artistic endeavours; with their understanding of the direction the music industry is heading, The Indelicates should give lectures to the disappointingly backwards artists like those involved in the redundant FAC (I say disappointing because I was shocked at some of the artists on their list).

I first noticed Simon and Julia over two years ago while scanning through pages and pages of artists at the SXSW website; several months later, their debut album American Demo became the runner-up in my Top 40 Albums of 2008. Songs For Swinging Lovers is a much more varied affair in terms of genre; they actually fulfill the promises of their press release (no mean feat when so many bands fail to deliver on even the first of their claims). While this record may not be as immediately accessible as their first, it is very obviously both its sequel and equal and still teeming with more adept social criticism, including further incisive commentary on feminism, youth, the music industry, celebrity, fascism, hypocrisy, and narrow-mindedness. There is the same calibre of intelligent (often brutal) candour as that of Luke Haines, something that the majority of their cohort are missing and something that most are too afraid to touch. And while The Indelicates’ sleeves are draped in impressive influences (musical and otherwise), they twist them into something as original as art can ever be without being created in a vacuum, taking in history and apt social observations to complicate clichés and debunk everyday myths.

Pounding away as the first of two Weimar cabaret songs (a style preceded by the Indelicates’ Christmas treat of Zuhalterballade), Europe is a satire of decadence and privilege. The self-aware seediness to be found in continental salons of the early 20th century can be just as easily applied to the farcical display of more recent moneyed classes, and its undignified grasping is articulated perfectly through Julia’s vocal strength and unrestrained operatics. This is followed by the most Manics-inflected of the tracks, Your Money, which swells from a sweet piano melody into an electric guitar anthem bristling like a sea of broken flag standards. Simon spits a furious stream of brilliant lyrics, including a fantastic 1984 reference (“Do it to Julia”) that plays on his partner’s name as much as it does on the narrator’s self-conscious musings on hypocrisy and the sick dominance of money in the world of art. In yet another song about an ostensibly “brainwashed” historical figure (see the brilliant Unity Mitford on American Demo), The Indelicates serenade Patty Hearst with We Love You, Tania. It’s a loungey number with a staggering yet rousing feel, unsteady on its feet like someone who drank a pint glass full of yeasty honesty. It features the rather profound line, “When you’re other to everyone, you’re a valuable girl.”

Pushing on with their earlier themes of diseased celebrity culture, which yearns for damaged people, and parasitic media (see also New Art for the People, We Hate the Kids, Waiting for Pete Doherty to Die), they address one such hapless character in Ill. They chant:

Your sickness is your shibboleth
Your sex is your sickness
And you’ve got time, you’ve got time to lose
Because you’ll never take enough of those pills,
You know you’re too clever to be mentally ill,
You’ll never fashion your damaged soul
Because you’re too clever to lose control

The next track, Flesh, makes mine crawl a little, a testament to the combination of the astute lyrics and the interplay of Julia’s sweetly vacant vocals with Simon’s predatory background vocals, “oh, flesh.” The muted trumpet sounds filthy as Julia sings about the seemingly acceptable malleability of females and further feminist failings: “Hey doc can you take my skin and melt it into plastic/Beauty isn’t truth it’s just youth, it’s adaptive and it’s elastic.” Vocals then pass off to Simon for Savages, a tinkly ballad that turns into a soaring synthy anthem by its end, is a brilliant revel in the vindication of outsider-dom. With a wonderful tie-in with the album cover, the chorus goes, “the world has no need of the songs that we sang/We are savages and we’ll hang, hang, hang.” Savages also has one of my favourite lines of the record: “we are Greeks in the age of Rome/With no right to criticise the happily dull to Grecian eyes.” There’s fight and survival in the apparent surrender; any golden age is just a gilded cage.

I suppose it says something about my character that the macabre murder ballad, Roses, doesn’t disturb me as much as Flesh. In true Nick Cave style, Roses is mesmerizing and miasmic as it sways slowly through the savouring of a homicide – punctured lungs, sawed-off limbs and all – while also mocking the vampiric. The chorus, which gently croons “Do you bleed diamonds/do you bleed rubies/do you bleed roses?,” is enchanting and sinister to me in the same way Windmills of Your Mind and Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) are. The pace picks up again with Sympathy for the Devil; rather than a cocky rebel sneer, it’s a knees-up Irish drinking song told by a much more believable Beelzebub than Jagger’s. As he recounts his journey out of Heaven, he plays Pied Piper to an unnamed lover, who is to meet him at the border in the morning. We learn that even the Devil is dissatisfied with this world. This is also the first track to be made into a music video – the rest of the album’s songs will eventually follow. The second Weimar-themed song, Be Afraid of Your Parents, continues with the dramatics reminiscent of Brecht/Weill compositions as it lambastes fascism and its attractive rhetoric, including the dangerous dialectic to be found in scapegoating. Simon takes over vocals as he namechecks Derrida and Foucault and the distance from humanity that academic theory provides. The sentiment in the track’s title is one that permeates The Indelicates’ body of work; keep your mind sharp and keep questioning precedents and “truths.” Julia and Simon keep you off balance by embedding layer after layer of latent meaning and then shifting them about, shaking you out of passive consumption.

The musical tone of the record becomes lighter with the jaunty Jerusalem, a satire of the stillborn revolution in today’s young people, who think “it seems rebellious to vote Conservative now.” It also serves as a parody of the English patriotic song of the same title and perhaps a stab at Labour Party idealism. The clueless subjects of this track “excel at drama and formal debating,” but care to know nothing of reality and take pseudo-political postures instead. The final track on the album proper, Anthem for Doomed Youth, is a delicate song that skips along in a lackadaisical fashion and ends in heavenly choruses provided by Julia; it also emphasizes many of the points already made in Jerusalem. Simon reiterates the futility of youth-based subcultures and the lack of something worth fighting for or against, singing “there’s nobody left in the West these days/wronged enough to be a punk” and “we are miners no more/never torn by a war/neither starving, nor struggling, nor incredibly poor.” There’s also an excellent snarl of “the three-inch bruise at the crook of your arm/that in the right light looks like Jesus,” which may or may not be a parody of a line in The Killers’ When You Were Young. The two bonus tracks currently available on the Corporate Records’ site are I Don’t Care If It’s True and an acoustic version of Savages; the former is a proud refusal to join in anymore with latin accents while the latter is a fragile rendition with hints of the shambolic sighs found in American Demo‘s Better To Know.

The album is available for download from here, where you can choose what you pay. Come June, I know I will be buying a physical copy of the album and any book or foodstuff that can be added on to it. I have never been disappointed with their challenging art. They continue to dissect societal ills with a surgeon’s precision and a cabaret MC’s panache. Songs For Swinging Lovers confirms The Indelicates’ paradox of condemning idealism and evading the romantic notion of promising revolution or escape while simultaneously giving people something exhilarating to rally behind, a whetstone for senses dulled on complacency. Oddly enough, they encapsulate a different semantic plane of We Love You, Tania; they are definitely other to most bands, and thus, so valuable. We need a band like this even if the masses ignore them and their witty words just hang, hang, hang. I’ll gladly go to the gallows with The Indelicates.

My brief sojourn back in the blogosphere will last for one more post as I conduct my Indelicates interview.

Ill – The Indelicates

Savages – The Indelicates

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4 Responses to “A Valuable Other to Everyone: The Indelicates’ Songs For Swinging Lovers”


  1. 1 Rol
    April 15, 2010 at 9:17 am

    A worthy return. Really looking forward to the interview.

  2. 2 2plus2isjoe
    April 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Good to see you back, I’d missed your writing and to see it in a lengthy review like this is wonderful!

  3. 3 jc
    April 16, 2010 at 6:35 am

    Couldn’t believe my eyes when I noticed you had put up a new posting.

    It is sooooooooooo good to have you back. I hope that you change your mind about this being a brief sojourn back into the blogosphere. You’ve been sorely missed.


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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

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Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

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Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

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Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

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Interpol (2007)

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Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

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Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

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Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

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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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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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