"Back the tape up. I need it again! Let it roll! Just as high as the fucker can go! And when it comes to that fantastic note where the rabbit bites its own head off, I want you to THROW THAT FUCKING RADIO INTO THE TUB WITH ME!"
Yea, verily... turn the volume up. After several listens through I got the feeling there was something missing, particularly on the re-recorded tracks. All of the bits you'll expect if you're a Puppies fan are there, it's just a different mix. With a bit more oomph, for want of a technical term and having already used 'volume' in this paragraph, it's like listening for the first time and all of the background effects and bass come out to play.
I've been waiting for this album for about three years, and some people will have been waiting for it a tad longer... Now that it's here, it doesn't disappoint, rolling in with a bit of old, a bit of new, and a lot of swagger. Any time a band makes a release that includes songs you've been regularly listening to different versions of for years, there's a period of disorientation... and I realise I keep harping on about this in reviews, but it's still true and relevant. Reinterpretation tends to be anathema amongst fans of something; part due to pattern recognition, part to affection/nostalgia/itshouldbethiswaydamnit factors.
The packaging looks slick for a digipak, with a separate booklet of lyrics and a photo to show you what the band members really look like (they're drawn in crayon as either vampires or Hogwarts students on the inside spread... and that looks a good deal better than it might sound from my description...)
There are seven unreleased tracks on offer, but I'll go through in order...
Terry was the band's first single on Fierce Panda, a song with a pounding beat about an eponymous bad boy. It also has a thoroughly odd video featuring dancing ghosts, which you can find along with a video for The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful on Myspace.
The Bottled Ship Song is new, instrumental medley accompanying a tale of wondering how one ended up stuck. It's a characteristically strong metaphor, and people being trapped recur a lot in Puppies' songs — this one, though, is more about paralysis in reality and living through imagination, ending on, "I don't feel the need to shake myself free / If you feel just like a ship in a bottle / Then close your eyes and dream of the sea."
Green Eyeliner was released as an A-side on Purr Records, but this is a new recording. More live cabaret than studio-produced, it features fewer vocal stretches and a confidently stripped-down backing section.
Bonnie and Me is also new and, like a good many songs here, takes a close reading of the lyrics and some thought to puzzle out... either that or I'm becoming a total dullard in old age. I've still probably missed some literary reference additional to the Salomé / John the Baptist's head one. But here goes... the song is a woman talking to her partner. As a child, she was inseperable from Bonnie, taking pictures of this guy and ultimately fighting over and winning him. In the lyrics booklet, a line is given as, "she's much closer than you know" — but I'm sure the line as delivered is, "and now she's buried" or similar. The song has an unsettling and slightly menacing feel, and it'd fit. Then again, "John the Baptist's head" is sung with "head" more like "heir", "bed" as "bear", etc.
The Drowsing Nymph was a singles club release through Remote Control. As with Green Eyeliner, the vocals are higher in the mix and style a bit more organic — the BBC review put it as, "replacing much of their previous hyperactivity with self-assuredness," and the band as, "we're becoming a little bit less punk."
Heartbreak Soup... and once again we're back to my piss-poor interpretive skills — it's probably about a partner who's playing away, though I'm not sure what "whose hearts you put at rest" implies. Soft and almost restful...
Theda Bara was considered the original vamper of the era of silent movies, just as an FYI. But anyway, it's an invitation to join forces and escape to a more interesting, imaginative and theatrical world. Pretty much a recruitment pitch from the band, then...
The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful is the most recent single and first with Fierce Panda. It's a letter to an agony aunt from a character in Hitchcock's Vertigo, about stepping into someone's shoes. Which sounds great. I still haven't seen the film, and went over that in more detail back when I reviewed the single. So, moving on...
Love or Trial may be my favourite track here, having several "kick in" instrumental parts, one of which bears a coincidental similarity to a bit in the theme to Channel 4's The Book Group. What do you mean, I'm not being helpful? Okay, it's bouncy, has a confident beat and the customary beguiling vocals you'd expect. Classic stuff.
Love in Practise not Theory first appeared as the second track on the Terry single. Very much an A-side rather than a B- from its opening line to finish, and wonderfully steely.
Baptist Boy... it's no bloody wonder I didn't manage to work out the lyrics to this before — another reference to Salomé; one of the lines is in Spanish (literally meaning "lost town, the grey sky"), and the other is, "you're the paprika, babe, on Errol Flynn's prick." Originally appeared as a radio-session-recorded B-side to Dawn of Man. Forceful and indeed not a tiny bit lascivious.
How Come You Don't Hold Me No More? offers an unusually straightforward set of lyrics, delivered with considerable feeling. It stays in the mind and on the lips long after.
Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall is a much-covered song credited to Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts, first recorded by Ella Fitzgerald & The Inkspots. Playing into the recursive referencing the band are fond of, the title is a quote from a Henry W. Longfellow poem. A little more volume normalisation on this coda would've been nice, but it's a fine blues ditty to close things. The line "some day the sun will shine" is probably the giveaway that this isn't a Puppies original; their songs are usually about doing things rather than waiting around, even if the choice is to do nothing.
All well and good, and the album deserves to win them a huge audience, so where to now? Well, How Come You Don't Hold Me No More is still being reported elsewhere as the next single, but Fierce Panda's site mentions an August single of Green Eyeliner and promo copies have appeared on eBay with a new track called Harum Scarum. It should win new converts, but HCYDHMNM or Love or Trial would've been my selection, drawing from the new tracks. The same reviewer also suggests that, at 38:22, Under the Crooked Moon could stand to lose a couple of tracks for flow. Personally I've got the releases prior to the album burned to one disc, with some radio tracks and Myspace demos, and that doesn't feel overlong at eighty minutes. People don't seem to have attention spans these days. Or to check facts, it appears.
In summary, this is heartily recommended whether you have any of the previous singles or not, becoming more enjoyable with further listening. In some ways dark and devoted to stories of passion bordering on madness, it's also never less than intelligent and impressive. And is often fun and poppy, by-and-large steering clear of pretension and making sense on a straightforward level as well as offering depths and secrets. Words really fail to explain the contradictions — I suggest coming for the music, staying for the lyrics. Blame/credit for the latter of which attaches to their guitarist, Luke.
TERRY Terry says... Terry [Terry Terry] says he knows a place Where we can go and dance alone But Terry won't, Terry [Terry Terry] won't tell me If that's blood or campari on his hands Oh but I'm in love with you, yes I am And if it's all the same to you I'd really like a dance Yes, I'd really like to dance with CHORUS: Terry No good for me (no good for me) No good for me Terry No good for me (no good for me) No good for me Terry looks... Terry [Terry Terry] looks so handsome Sitting in my father's den, airing his despair But Terry leaves, Terry [Terry Terry] leaves cigarette ash everywhere When dancing up the stairs in his underwear But I'm in love with you, yes I am, yes I am You may think that I cannot but I think I can, but I think I can But I'd really love a dance with CHORUS BRIDGE CHORUS
THE BOTTLED SHIP SONG I feel just like a ship in a bottle I don't know how to get out or how I got in But then you came along and for a minute or two I thought I might just've learned something new But I hadn't, and now you're stuck down here like me So close your eyes and try to sleep Close your eyes and try to get some sleep 'Cause maybe we'll sleep through the worst And maybe we'll sleep through the best And maybe we'll sleep through the rest of our lives It's anyone's guess... I feel just like a ship in a bottle I want to get out, but if I did I'd just fall apart Sails all shredded from the wind and the sand And then crushed up in some vulgarian's hand And left in the gutter to make my way back to the sea BRIDGE I feel just like a ship in a bottle I don't feel the need to shake myself free If you feel just like a ship in a bottle Then close your eyes and dream of the sea...
GREEN EYELINER You didn't come here on your own To be leaving on your own And you don't wear that cologne With the intention of leaving on your own I hear your wife's good-looking I hear your kids are loving I hear that love and god Couldn't save you from a girl With green eye-liner on CHORUS: Green eye-liner I got green eye-liner on Green eye-liner I got green eye-liner on You did didn't come here on your own To be who you are at home The way you're soaked in that cologne How can you wonder why you're sitting on your own And do you wanna dance to this song Or find somebody who'll cry on your clothes When you're gone Let me just put my green eye-liner on CHORUS So dance... dance, dance, dance... Like this is your first dance... With the girl with green... eye... li-ner... on... CHORUS (x2)
BONNIE AND ME Bonnie and me, we were only thirteen She had a camera, we had a dream, sat in a tree Taking pictures of thee... But that was twelve years ago And now you're here but I'm on my own And it's no fun... it's no fun without her Why can't it be just Bonnie and me? Bonnie and me, jumping on beds We were smalltown Salomés, you were John the Baptist's head We dress only in violet, we dress only in red And if one of us breaks then the other repairs... But that was eleven years ago And now she's very near (?) the snow And it's no fun... it's no fun without her Why can't it be just Bonnie and me? Do you remember the way we were love's foot soldiers And we were hiding in the grass for you? We were love's foot soldiers and we were wading through the mud for you We were love's foot soldiers and we were fighting in the grass for you We were love's foot soldiers and we were waiting in the cold for you
THE DROWSING NYMPH Love's a drowsing nymph When it wakes it starts to scream Like some ungodly thing starts to scream The heart's a wretched thing Takes a sinking man and makes him swim Takes a poor man, makes him king Just to watch him sin CHORUS: So won't you save me, save me, save me from these things Don't you know I'm sorry, I'm sorry, forgive me for what I did Love's a drowsing nymph Brings you dahlias, buys you gifts Feeds you things that make you sick, until you're stiffed The heart's a wretched thing Shows the tongue-tied how to sing That takes away their hearing, oh it's a wretched thing CHORUS (x2)
HEARTBREAK SOUP I'm standing trial every single night I'll testify to the morning sky and the birds on the powerlines I'll bow to all of your ridiculous demands Those empty threats on serviettes written in the hand... That brings me this heartbreak soup Served for me, made by you But don't you take me for a fool You served enough for two You found one million ways to waste my breath But you still hide behind Those faithless wives whose hearts you put at rest And you talk and you talk but you won't say Where you spent the day And to my shame I can take the pain When you say my name that way And bring me my heartbreak soup
THEDA BARA You look just like Theda Bara Why don't we synchronise our lunch hours We could hide out in the cellar We could catch a train together We could moan about the weather We could spend our lives together CHORUS: Have you ever had a broken heart? Have you ever had a no-good job? Well follow me, follow me If you feel that your life's not working And you're sick and tired of rehearsing Well take my hand (take my hand) and follow me If we stacked all these boxes of old lingerie We could climb them up to our thrones of ivory And the terelene skies and crowns of diamonique Toasting goblets full of tears of our childhood enemies... CHORUS
THE GIRL WHO WAS TOO BEAUTIFUL Dear Mariella I am twenty-five I live alone I think I might have found love But I just don't know There's something wrong 'Cause he has another love And she's been buried a year And there might be a passing resemblance But... Dear Mariella, how can I compare? To the girl, to the girl To the girl, to the girl who was too beautiful? It's not fair There's a ghost in his house In his room, on his bed and this chair And all my friends say it's not right But I don't care, I'm gonna change my hair 'Cause he wants her And I just want somebody there Dear Mariella It's gone from bad to worse It feels like I'm chasing a hearse And now I'm even wearing her clothes I feel like a ghost Just the other day Staring from across the street I think I might have seen her mother But... Dear Mariella, she didn't see me Just the girl, just the girl Just the girl, just the girl who was too beautiful There's a ghost in his house In his room, on his bed and this chair And all my friends say it's not right But I don't care, I'm gonna change my hair 'Cause he wants her And I just want somebody there Mariella... Mariella... Don't say that time is on my side... There's no picture... in the cellar... She's such a lovely place to hide... Oh, yours faithfully What would you do if you were me? Would you wanna let go Like I wanna let go I don't need to let go 'Cause I am the girl, I'm the girl I'm the girl, I'm the girl who was too beautiful There's a ghost in his house In his room, on his bed and this chair And all my friends say it's not right But I don't care, I'm gonna change my hair 'Cause he wants her And I just want somebody there
LOVE OR TRIAL All of the wicked things you do Could leave prize fighters black and blue Oh all of the wicked things you do and say could not Keep me away... much to my dismay CHORUS: What does it take to make you smile? Why must I walk this murder mile? Is this your love or is this my trial? Is this your love or my trial? All of the crooked things you say That help you make it through the day Oh all of the many ways to waste my breath Oh it isn't wasted yet, so still I must repent CHORUS Is this your love or a scandal to address A soul to put to rest A crime of love you needed to confess? Is this your love or is this my trial? Is this your love or my trial?
LOVE IN PRACTISE, NOT THEORY So if you tell me, tell me, tell me that you love me One more time... I shall be sick on your guitar I'm not some delicate piece of art To be admired from afar So won't you pull me, pull me, pull me through this speaker And show me a time... show me the lovers they say own the night Show me the diamonds you left in the mine Show me that time is still on my side CHORUS: 'Cause baby, it's love In practice, not theory You may behold me But why can't you hold me? 'Cause baby, it's love In practise, not theory Trapped in a song But not for too long And as for that solitary tear that you save For the end of the week The one that will make 'em go weak at the knee When you dedicate it to me Well it's the one thing that I've never seen And you say baby, baby, baby It's that time of the year The time when your violin and a tear Will make the rooftop angels appear They'll give you their sandals And a harp if you cry in their beer CHORUS
BAPTIST BOY Is that your girl with the slicked back hair? And the push up bra, well I don't care I wanna cut your hair... I wanna say your prayer... My baptist boy with the rabid stare CHORUS: Oh Salomé A big black cloud has come my way It's here to stay So give yourself to sin Let it in let it in let it in I curse this town every night and day From the drunk old men to the newborn babes Pueblo perdido, la ciela gris You're the paprika, babe, on Errol Flynn's prick CHORUS (x2)
HOW COME YOU DON'T HOLD ME NO MORE? How come you don't hold me no more? How come you don't hold me no more? I'm still the same fool that I was before... But now I'm a fool who's not held anymore How come you don't walk with me no more? How come you don't walk with me no more? They're the same old streets as before... Is this the way it will be forevermore? What do you see... differently? Oh sweet mercy... I don't understand it I don't understand it, try as hard as I might I don't understand you... How come you don't sing for me no more? How come you don't sing for me no more? Those funny, happy songs of before That had everybody dancing in the hall How come you don't hold me no more? How come you don't hold me no more? You look like you've never seen me before Is this the way it will be forevermore? What can I say... to stem the decay? Or even just to hear my name... I don't understand it I don't understand it, try as hard as I might I don't understand you... How come you don't hold me no more? (x4) How come you don't hold me no more? (x4)
INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL Into each life some rain must fall But too much is falling in mine Into each heart some tears must fall But someday the sun will shine Some folks can lose the blues in their hearts But when I think of you another shower starts Into each life some rain must fall But too much is falling in mine Into each life some rain must fall But too much too much is falling in mine Into each heart some tears must fall Someday a sun will shine Some folks can lose the blues in their hearts But when I think of you another shower starts Into each life some rain must fall But too much is falling in mineAll original lyrics are, naturally, copyright the band.