Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Cry On Demand" / Gomez

I knew hardly anything about this English band before this summer, when I began to hear "See The World" every other day on Sirius radio; I soon found myself singing along to it LOUDLY (the main reason for having a car radio, in my opinion) and realized I had to buy their new album, How We Operate.

I've been burned before by buying a whole CD on the strength of one great track, so I'm happy to report that this CD totally delivers the goods. It's hard to label, except to say it's all solid melodic pop, with droll lyrics and sneaky riffs. "See the World" has real staying power, but lately it's this track, "Cry On Demand," that's been looping in my brain.

It took several listens, I'll confess, before I realized this is yet another song about a guy facing an accusing female -- it's like a sit-com version of that old old story, quite different from the tragic howl of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" or the writhing frustration of "Mardy Bum". You think you're in folk-music territory at first, as Ian Ball earnestly sings "I wish I could cry on demand," all Donovan-like over that acoustic guitar, but the very next line flips into petty sarcasm: "Boo hoo, boo hoo," he taunts. I imagine the woman weeping wildly, and him rolling his eyes (if you know "Stop your Sobbin'," by the Kinks, you've already got the whole picture).

Very quickly an electric guitar butts in, with a particularly snide chug-a-lug, laid over a upbeat whistling motif (think fast-food jingle); they're pushing a lot of musical buttons here all at once, but somehow it works, keeping things bouncy and light-hearted. "I've been shaking, shaking in my boots / Every time I hear my telephone ring," he confesses, stuttering nervously, hitting discordant notes; "It can't possibly be you / You never call, not since my little accident." Now, I have no idea what he means by his "accident", but I'll bet you anything the woman in the case didn't think it was an accident. He's spinning the situation so frantically, you've got to laugh.

Things sound almost woozy in the bridge, as harmonizing vocals billow up and down in volume, like he's trying to sound soothing (and failing dismally): "I didn't mean to cause any trouble / I didn't know you were so serious / And I didn't mean to burst our bubble / It can only float for so long." (Nice pun, that.) Cut to a repeat of the "cry on demand" chorus, this time with more jangly guitars and a punchy drumbeat, as he loses all patience with her drummed-up tears.

In the next bridge he delivers a few more sheepish particulars: "Now I realise, I realise they were wrong / 'Cos what happens in Vegas don't take very long / To travel across continents, and onwards overseas / Onto our little island, to our city, our home." The reference to the Vegas ad slogan is another tip-off -- it doesn't really matter what he's done, we can't take this seriously. Especially not when it drops into a boppy guitar break, with a few muted yelps of fun in the background -- it's just a song, and a damn fun song at that. I defy you to listen to it without wanting to pop up and dance...or, if you're in the car, slapping the steering wheel and singing LOUD. Hey, no one will ever know.

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