05 March 2008

'This Means Anything'/'I Was In Chains'

Last night I was in a migraine haze, sitting on the couch and watching Tivo'd episodes of Chef Stories, No Reservations, and Bizarre Foods, and trying to read my Apocalypse 2012 book. I had just taken a small handful of pills that I hoped were Ibuprofen, though I couldn’t be exactly sure since my girlfriend tends to throw all her meds into the same bottle for when we travel and this was one of the bottles, and washed it down with the last 32-ounces of the 5-gallon drum of tea that I had nearly single-handedly put away over the past 2-and-a-half days. (At least I had the sense to make sure all the pills matched.) The laptop was on and I was ready to be creative and post amazing new things.

I woke up a few hours later in time to hear V’s key turning in the lock, be on the receiving end of claws as the sleeping cat on my chest sprang to life and leapt to the door, and having Bullet Tooth Tony yelling at me from Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels on TV. So suffice it to say, little got written. However, I did jolt awake with a song still ringing in my brain. It was something that was left over from the unconscious state, the soundtrack to my dreamless-dreaming. It seems to be a song... rather ‘songs’ that transition from waking to sleeping well. From the 1985 LP Secret Of Association, it’s This Means Anything/I Was In Chains by the spiky haired hero of my youth, Paul Young.

For those who need a refresher:

Everything Must Change

Yes, this was his big album with hit singles like the cover of Every Time You Go Away, Tomb Of Memories, and Everything Must Change. Chock full of blue-eyed soul the album was about as close as the Luton-born Mr. Young ever got to being a fully fledged Detroit soulster. It had the definite sway from three male back up vocalists, the funkiest organ riffs heard in those days, and—one of my favourite tricks of the 80s—the warm, mournful cry of a well played fretless bass. Much like a Vegas crooner Mr. Young’s career depended a lot on cover songs (Love Will Tear Us Apart, Love Of the Common People, I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down, Oh Girl, Wherever I Lay My Hat Is Home, A Soldiers Things, Don’t Dream It’s Over, etc.), though that’s not to say that he was in any way sub-par. In fact, he has a beautifully gruff voice. But towards the end of this soulful album there are two tracks that bleed from one to the other. And one is, surprisingly, an original.

This Means Anything is a sad, sweet song with still that plaintive soul edge that made Every Time You Go Away such a huge hit. Of the two I’ve always preferred this song because of its simplicity and earnestness. Perhaps it's because Mr. Young is singing something that he wrote and can express it with deeper conviction than the lyrics of another. Jangly, reverb-drenched, and shiningly 80s, the song fades with the repeating roundelay I'll be with you again, words without credence, oh and segues into windchimes and a sparse rhythm. Enter I Was In Chains. His Eastern take on the Sutherland Brothers classic conjures images of deserts, ships, open skies, and travels. Lonely deserts, lonely ships, lonely open skies, and lonely travels. I was in chains and bound for Australia... Though it creeps up on you the instrumentation is full. The lyrics and delivery compliment the sentiment of This Means Anything, the natural progression. It is not until the last ambient 20 seconds of the track do you become aware that it's over (and for the full effects listen to it through headphones, panning-o-philes, but I have to admit that I was much more impressed when I was 15).

As I mentioned, this is a drowsy pair of songs. Songs for the heartbroken, the traveling, and those of you who have hopefully taken only Ibuprofen.


Paul Young - This Means Anything/I Was In Chains

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