Even before the advent of MP3s I had always had a preference for the song rather than whole album – whether 45, its b-side or album track – an LP would be purchased purely on the basis of one track, and often much of the rest of the album did not measure up. There were exceptions of course often where the album worked as a piece even more than its component songs – Scary Monsters and Super Creeps by David Bowie, Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and Hounds of Love by Kate Bush to list a few – but by and large I was a singles man.
So MP3s arrival was a natural and welcome development to me – I could at last download single tracks to my heart’s content without feeling duty-bound to buy the rest of the album with it.
My music posts will be in that spirit – of songs and songs alone.
But what of reviewing songs in this age of the web?
In decades only recent gone the music-press was often the only way I could find out about music that was beyond the interest of mainstream radio (iconic and rare exceptions such as John Peel not withstanding) whereas with the web what could the like of New Musical Express and Melody Maker and their staff of music critics offer you that you could not find out for yourself with a few mouse clicks and curious browsing? More to the point we did not need it described as we could hear and judge the music for ourselves.
A music critic’s role remains though as otherwise we could drown in a sea of music, inundated into submission. We need to be signposted more than ever – we can access ever more and at the same time this leaves us ever less time to access it.
And those whose recommendations we trust then give us more time to spend on the songs we love and less on those we do not. But enough rambling preamble and onto my first song.
Here’s The Tender Coming is my inaugural post. This 2009 song by The Unthanks – well I could say that words fail me even though that would defeat the purpose of this post itself! But I cannot begin to give justice to this song.
The sentiment is clear – off to war young men are sent and their families of wives and children are left behind to fend without them – a sadly timeless sentiment. But the music is beyond any hyperbole I can muster – sometime a cappella one sister, sometime a cappella the other sister, other-time a cappella both sisters, other-time strings and percussion with them, other-time strings and percussion without them – all sung movingly and beautifully in the English North Eastern accent of the sisters Rachel and Becky. All times in time and for all time out of time.
And in this age of transatlantic accents what a pleasure the likes of Unthanks and Kate Nash and The Arctic Monkeys who sing in the voice that they were brought up in.