Showing 30 posts tagged closing time
Prince - Partyup
Final track from “Dirty Mind” (1980)
'Partyup' is the closing track on Dirty Mind, Prince’s 1980 album. He’d had his first mainstream hit the previous year with ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’, but there’s a clear contrast by Dirty Mind, which swaps out much of the disco and R&B sound for (very danceable) synth-based rock.
The album is pretty solidly about sex, with a near-constant theme of sex trumping other limitations through the songs - ‘Sister’ is incest imposed by an authority figure, ‘Head’ is a woman on the verge of marriage who’s just powerless in the face of this dude who’s “such a hunk, so full of spunk”, ‘Do It All Night’ is just kind of shy but warms quickly, ‘Gotta Broken Heart Again’ can’t stop thinking about the sex despite being devastated by a breakup, ‘Uptown’ is a neighbourhood that’s all freedom in contrast to “downtown, nowhere-bound, narrow-minded drag”. ‘When You Were Mine’ is kind of an exception, a bit more of torturing himself thinking about sex after a break-up, but it’s much more about love.
Closing tracks are rarely my favourites. Ideally, they’ll play off the dynamic of the album and bring it to a point where it’ll end, and many of my favourites are straight, quiet and middle-of-the-night emotional about it, where silence is stark and charged right after they end: ‘Untitled’ from R.E.M.’s Green, ‘Say Yes’ from Elliott Smith’s Either/Or, ‘I’m In Love With A Girl’ from Big Star’s Radio City.
'Partyup' is an explosive party jam, aggressive and building an anti-war manifesto, bringing back the club freedom of 'Uptown' so that while it breaks from sex, it's more like an aerial view of the same territory where the rest fits in just right. (It's also big enough that, by the end of the glissando in the introduction, it's broken from the catchy, breathless incest story that precedes it.) It's (appropriately!) a climax to the album and uses all the energy and emotion accumulated across the previous tracks, and it self-describes as “revolutionary rock and roll”, not disco or funk or anywhere Prince had been filed up to that point.
Fighting war is such a fucking bore. Partyup.
Elliott - Speed of Film
Final track from “False Cathedrals” (2000)
I’ve always felt that False Cathedrals had a bit of a pacing problem: any of the last three tracks could be the final. Even amidst an album of frequent cathartic moments, “Carving Oswego”, “Lie Close” and “Speed of Film” all pack a wallop worthy of ending the LP. What sets apart “Speed of Film” as the piece that Elliott would choose as a closer?
False Cathedrals strikes an adversarial tone early on, the first intelligible lyrics challenging the ideals and values that we’re sold — well, more specifically, that Americans as are sold — though I’m sure we’re not the only ones. The album is rife with struggle, whether against these confining socializations, past failures, personal brokenness, or greater tragedies.
“Speed of Film” continues that tone, while reflecting on the disparities between reality and our attempts to capture it in art. It challenges our attempts to gloss over so many uncomfortable details in our attempts to convey the human experience, not only in media, but even in our day to day lives; it targets the ways various ways we transmit those aforementioned values and ideals, spit-shined until the imperfections are no longer seen.
Strangely, at the same time, it indicts itself.
False Cathedrals is, at its best, highly cinematic, making epic in scope the ordinary if painful struggles of “this normal life”. “Speed of Film” is the first time in the album where that facade starts to slip, and the first time where the narrator admits that their own story faces the same the same potential pitfalls it calls out.
It is near impossible for any one work of art to fully capture the human experience, and even if the things we want seem straightforward, actually living that out is never simple. “Speed of Film” admits that however earnest the intentions, False Cathedrals is just one take on the story — to a certain extent, you’re going to have to write your own.
(Jeffrey has been extremely kind and helpful with tweaking this blog’s code and html theme time and again… thanks, Jeff!)
The Billy Nayer Show – Apartment #5
Final track from “Return to Brigadoon” (1999)
The 1947 Musical “Brigadoon” tells the story of a mystical village that only appears to mundane, human eyes once every century. A part of the magic of the town of Brigadoon is that no townsman can ever leave it, and if they did, the town would disappear into the fog of time. The only way for an outsider to be allowed to stay is if they fall in love with one of it’s denizens.
The Billy Nayer Show’s 1999 album “Return To Brigadoon” is full to the brim with love-soaked delusion. Every song details a character who’s either a tearful man in near-insane pursuit of an unattainable love, or about a hollowed out shell of a cynical man having been ravaged by a once-attained love. We have a song spelling out the A B C ‘s of failed relationships (“D is for Deceit, E: even more deceitful than D, who’d have thought that could B?”), a song detailing a man picking up his torn-out heart from behind a dirty city dumpster (“wiped off the dirt, and picked out the rocks / everything’s going to be alright, now”), and even a retelling of Eve’s Apple-Eating Mistake (the menacing jilt of “The Cat, The Crow, And The Snake”).
It’s an album of missed opportunity— the joke of the title being that one can never return to Brigadoon in their lifetime (without true love, at least— meaning that any of the love detailed on the album is false and self-centered). It’s all a harrowing listen if you’re paying attention to the lyrics (Billy Nayer Show lyrics often take the style of children’s songs or bedtime stories, but replace the moon and stars with filthy old men alone forever). But if you aren’t, it’s an album that starts high, with ukelele and autoharp chirping upbeat melodies, anchored by singer Cory McAbee’s operatic voice.
But the album doesn’t end with a missed opportunity or jilted fury. It doesn’t end with cynicism, or heartbreak, or deceit, or Old Testament-levels of Outrage. It ends with the song “Apartment #5.” It starts with this, carried along by guitar and autoharp (played with the most ‘elementary school music class’ of tones):
“I’ll finish all my lunch, and I’ll eat all my fries
And I’ll prove that my stomach’s as big as my eyes
I’ll spring for the check, and walk you to my home
That’s where I spend all my days …all alone.”
Bass and a tambourine enter as we’re led around this man’s apartment. We’re shown, one by one, the physical items in the room: the chair, the bed, all the movies he’s taped, the books he’s read. The song puts us in a pretty strage position: we’re sung to so directly, and the apartment is described so vividly, so personally, that we’re confronted with being both listener and subject: involved and removed from what we’re hearing/seeing. The singer is dictating, not explaining. We’re in the room, but he may as well be talking to himself.
The longer the description of the Apartment goes on („I’ll show you paintings that I’ve painted, and tell you all about my lamp / I’ll show you water damage in the corner, where it gets damp”), the more the excitement comes through, and the more we get the whole picture of this character. By the time our chair’s pulled in front of his, and our feet are pressed against, it’s clear we’re the first person ever to see the inside of the apartment.
And with a flourish, we’re brought into a refrain: “I’ll finish all my dinner / and I’ll eat all my fries.” We realize, as the cycle repeats, but timeshifted, that we’re not the first person to see the inside— no one ever has. We don’t exist. The song has been a warmup, a ‘what will I say, what can I say,’ a dream, a fantasy. All leading up to the question. Asked once plaintively. A pause. Asked again, with force:
“Will you marry me?”
Pause. Drums. Release.
(Ian previously wrote for OWOB about David Bowie in the 1990s)