Burn It: ‘My Bloody Valentine’
Posted on February 14, 2005
Although I’m not a religious man I will readily celebrate Christmas and Easter. Valentines, on the other hand, though not technically a religious holiday, typically yields fewer cards and candies and therefore demands less of my attention. Of course, should I be on a date tonight rather than writing this, between a board meeting and sleeping alone, I might be more enthused. Instead – and as part of the estranged Burn It series – I’ve compiled a playlist for the dateless. We are alone together.
My Bloody Valentine (Total Time: 1:20:21)
- ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight‘ – Elvis Presley
- ‘Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight‘ – Whiskeytown
- ‘Bye Bye Love‘ – The Everly Brothers
- ‘I Don’t Love Anyone‘ – Belle & Sebastian
- ‘What A Wonderful Thing Love Is‘ – Al Green
- ‘Today Has Been OK‘ – Emiliana Torrini
- ‘Shit, Damn, Motherf*****‘ – D’Angelo
- ‘F*** It, I Don’t Want You Back‘ – Eamon
- ‘Cry Me A River‘ – Justin Timberlake
- ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away‘ – The Ramones
- ‘Cold Hard B****‘ – Jet
- ‘Hallelujah‘ – Jeff Buckley
- ‘Solitaire‘ – Jesse Malin
- ‘Burn‘ – Ray LaMontagne
- ‘Creep (Acoustic)‘ – Radiohead
- ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me‘ – The Smiths
- ‘Cheers Darlin’‘ – Damien Rice
- ‘The Rat‘ – The Walkmen
- ‘Chelsea Hotel‘ – Leonard Cohen
- ‘Hotel Chelsea Nights‘ – Ryan Adams
A qualifying question from the King. If your answer is ‘yes’ please proceed to song 2.
Nothing says drunk and alone like the sound of slide guitar and fiddle. Here the Ryan Adams vehicle, Whiskeytown, articulate both states of being in a style both a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.
Only the Everly Brothers can sing the line, “I think I’m gonna di-ie”, with one too many syllables and a disposition so sunny to belie the song’s doomful lyrics.
“Not even Christmas”? Not even Christmas.
What sounds like a rather odd choice for an anti-Valentines playlist is, on closer inspection, rather inspired. The Reverend Al Green, as he is now known, has that remarkable ability to evoke empathy in even the most callous of listeners. Here however his delivery is so curious in its phrasing that the song’s supposed romantic sentiment can be read as ironic. Such a reading is only promoted by Green’s troubled love life and the story of his former girlfriend, Mary Woodson, who broke into his Memphis home, October 1974, and poured boiling grits on the singer while he was bathing. She inflicted second-degree burns on his back, stomach and arms, before killing herself with his gun.
Emiliana Torrini is an exquisite concoction of Italian and Icelandic decent, with a voice not unlike Bjork’s and a pathos that recalls Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. Torrini’s boyfriend was killed in the ‘honeymoon period’ of their relationship; she herself was attacked by a gang of muggers in London. So although her problems might surpass being alone on Valentines, I nevertheless find some affinity tonight with this track.
A day not so okay is recounted in D’Angelo’s obsenity riddled tale of infidelity, revelation and ultimate murder, when our hero finds his wife in bed with his best friend. Over a mid-tempo, soulful groove D’Angelo sings, “Why the both of yous bleeding so much?” ‘Cause you shot them mate. That’s why.
As if to outdo Mr Angelo, Staten Island vocalist, Eamon, takes his profanity-laced pop to a new level and finds a profitable outlet for his long-suffered Tourette Syndrome. The result is the insanely popular ‘F*** It, I Don’t Want You Back’, its offensive language and misogyny cleverly censored by a series of indecipherable asterisks and silent pauses.
Not to be confused with the melancholy Arthur Hamilton standard that was a hit for late Jazz singer/actress Julie London in 1955, here is a song utterly devoid of dignity and grace, a melodrama with atmospheric rain, a chiming Greek chorus and a speaker, velvet voiced and vindictive. It’s also the most interesting track on the otherwise bland Justified album, but as a tell-tale piece on ex-girlfriend Britney Spears it does little to incite our sympathy. Its accompanying video, in which JT breaks into his ex’s house, films himself fooling around with new lady friend and leaves the video playing, does little to help the situation.
A pretty good excuse for being alone on Valentines, I think. (Though actually a story of how Johnny Ramone stole and later married Joey Ramone’s girlfriend.)
More mean spirited misogyny from Australia’s finest cock-rockers, Jet.
A perfect, though hardly romantic marriage of Leonard Cohen’s words and Jeff Buckley’s voice, this version of Hallelujah is a masterpiece of bitterness and spite, bubbling at the surface with intimacy and urgency, and saved only from self-destruction by the effortless grace of Buckley’s guitar and vocals.
“Love,” according to Cohen, “is a cold and a broken ‘hallelujah'”.
Between Jeff Buckley and Ray LaMontagne, Jesse Malin is in fine company and manages to hold his own in this ode to solitude from his 2002 debut, The Fine Art of Self-Destruction, a record of fight-or-flight mentality with its love-sucker heart worn proudly on its alt-country sleeve. Malin’s voice is a raw as his emotions as he sings, “got some cigarettes/I don’t need anyone.”
It was indeed late and I’d had a bit to drink when I discovered LaMontagne on a re-run of ‘Later with Jools Holland’. By the morning, like some kind of a gay one night stand, his gruff voice and rough beard were fresh in my memory but his name had escaped me. I found him, of all places, in a Virgin Megastore, after asking an assistant for Ray Lasagna. My humming was more helpful and she promptly handed me a copy of his debut album, Trouble, which I can heartily recommend. An obvious choice for this playlist for the lyric, “It’s so hard to ignore/All this blood on the floor/’Cause this heart on my sleeve/Won’t stop bleeding.” And a cracker of a voice.
A rather brilliant fan video, linked below, does little to contest Thom Yorke’s reputation as a bit of a weirdo. Watch a mini Yorke sing his little heart out in a cartoon cross between Stressed Eric and The Office.
“Just another false alarm.” Not one of the more cheery – and I imagine, unreleased – Smiths songs.
One of the more exciting moments of the largely acoustic, O, which is, I think, at its best when Rice is given the freedom to experiment with scale, sound effect and indeed electricity. “Cheers darlin’,” he mumbles over a lazy electric guitar, “here’s to you and your…lover man.”
“Can’t you see me?!” shouts front man, Walter Martin. “I’m pounding on your door,” which incidentally, is the overall effect of this from New York rockers The Walkmen. It breaks briefly in the middle for the line, “when I used to go out I would know/everyone that I saw/Now I go out alone/If I go out at all,” and then repeats its joyful anger until it hammers home.
The Chelsea Hotel, I’ve decided, is not a nice place to stay. It’s spawned several songs of loneliness and insomnia, characterised by these old and new songs from 1974 and 2004 respectively. Here Cohen hands us a snapshot, a Polaroid picture of a moment in time, remembered in detail but shaken dry by denial. “I remember it well/in Chelsea Hotel,” he sings. “But that’s all/I don’t think of you that often.”
“And I’m tired of living in this hotel,” a lovesick Senõr Adams sings, “TV and dirty magazines,” which just about sums up my valentines. I’m San Sharma. Thanks for listening.