Apart from Coachella I haven’t reviewed any music (or anything else) for about six months; I felt a little burnt-out on writing short reviews of every album I heard. So instead I’ll try another format, longer reviews of records I’m really into in which I overanalyze them. Here’s a pilot installment.
The Long Blondes: Someone To Drive You Home
This band has been all the rage in Britain for like six months now, but their debut album just came out here at the beginning of June. The British music media seems to find a new Savior of Rock every year or so, thus making me skeptical of massively hyped Britrock bands, but I picked up this CD anyway and have practically put it on repeat all week—it’s really kind of addictive. I can’t figure out how to categorize the musical style: it’s loud and fast and danceable, frequently poppy and with a touch of punk. Play the video below and you’ll get an idea.
The lyrics are terrific, and one of the rewards of repeated listens. Clever psychological studies and layers of meaning, in the best traditions of fellow Sheffield artists like Pulp and the Arctic Monkeys. (What is it with that town? Def Leppard aside.) Film noir and the femme fatale archetype are clearly influences, and not just because they’re explicitly mentioned. In fact the band knows its cinema pretty well, from the shouted chorus of opener “Lust in the Movies”—Edie Sedgwick! Anna Karina! Arlene Dahl!—to the Billy Wilder reference in “You Could Have Both”.
If there’s an overall theme to the album it’s relationships between women; although most of the romance is heterosexual, the male characters are frequently in the background, with the song focused on the (female) singer’s rival. In (my personal favorite) “Only Lovers Left Alive”, we learn nothing at all about the man she’s got her eye on, but plenty about the girlfriend she plans to take him from.
And many of these songs are ultimately more revealing about the character of the singer rather than their nominal subjects. Perhaps the best song on the album is “Once And Never Again”; here’s the video:
I noticed the Wikipedia entry has a section on the song’s meaning, which reads:
It has been speculated amongst fans about the meaning of this song. Some have thought of it as playing with lesbian undertones (“Oh how I’d love to feel a girl your age…”), whereas others think it is about self-harm.
Yes, the teenage girl’s self-harming tendencies are an element of the song, and it’s definitely a thinly-veiled come-on, but as I read it neither of these are what the song is really about. Rather, it paints a picture of an older woman wanting to recapture her youth by latching onto a younger girl. The singer desires the girl in the song because she wants to be her, and her insistence that it sucks to be 19 are ironic because she wants to be that age again herself. Thus, the title line, repeated twice in the song: the first time an assurance that “to be your age” need only be suffered “once and never again”, and the second a lament that the singer already had her chance herself. And so the line Wikipedia quotes has a double meaning: what she’s really saying is “how I’d love to feel like a girl your age… [but it was] once and never again”.
If you like the song, you’ll like the whole album—it’s good all the way through. The US release comes with a bonus disc that has some of the B-sides from the UK singles, but they’re more optional.
Someone to Drive You Home: Amazon iTunes