This particular album pushes ALL of my buttons.
It hits into the dark recesses of my psyche and says “I’ve got your number, fredlet.” Frankly, its a bit scary. But it also holds a fascination for me like a shark swimming past you in the ocean…you want to look away, yet you can’t.
The [Helpline Operator], the intimate stranger, asks you to:
“Put your tongue into the mouthpiece and whisper in my ear
admit to me the things you can’t admit yourself
admit to me and no one else
Everybody’s looking for someone
to tell them what they want to hear
Everyone is looking for true love
to help them feel what you cannot feel.”
Matt Johnson’s voice ranges from a confidential tenor to a growly roar as he belts out the chorus. Purposeful distortion in the recording distances you from the person that you actually want to confess your personal shadows… hypnotic to say the very least.
Though, the parts of the album that grab me are the songs that plea for help. If you view the album as a cohesive whole, you never know from which delusion that Matt Johnson is suffering. Is he begging for a release from his jaded antipathy? [Bluer Than Midnight]
“save me. save me. Save me.
the candles are lit
the curtains are drawn
there’s still no sign of rain or dawn
our lips touch
our limbs entwine
but the ghosts that haunt me
won’t leave my mind
save me. save me. Save me.
…I ask myself why can love ever touch my heart like fear does?”
[This is the Night]
“how many whores have walked through that door?
lain by my side and climbed in my mind
and taken me down to where the heat
blisters the skin on my feet
makes me reach out and weep
for the days when I was pure of heart
and slept in peace”
or is he railing against the universe’s cruel indifference to his emotional burden that seems too much to bear?
“well I’ve been crushing the symptoms
but I can’t forget the cause
could God really be so cruel?
to give us feelings that can never be fulfilled”
I saw these guys in concert when they toured for this album and it was an amazing experience. The vocals required two microphones to achieve the distortion that they had on the album and he completely nailed every song making them better in the way that only a live performance can improve a song.
…and watching Johnny Marr play guitar is a transcendental experience in itself.
Matt Johnson has the quintessential voice for this album…this is one of those perfect albums that you couldn’t imagine a world where it could get any better than how he recorded each and every song. It also has the distinction of being the only album to have a song [Sodium Light Baby] with a wah-wah pedal that I actually liked.
High praise indeed.
wacky little side note:for some reason the emotional desperation of “The Dusk” reminds me of the ‘Hellblazer’ graphic novels that feature John Constantine…
(my favorites are in italics)
- True Happiness This Way Lies
- Love Is Stronger Than Death
- Dogs Of Lust
- This Is The Night
- Slow Emotion Replay
- Helpline Operator
- Sodium Light Baby
- Lung Shadows
- Bluer Than Midnight
- Lonely Planet