Seconds

MettleEven as the caretaker of a semi-dormant music blog, I still get a lot of email from groups looking for the kind of word of mouth buzz that they somewhat foolishly assume I have sufficient readership to help generate.  I give them all a fair hearing, mindful of the pitches I myself have made to arbiters of taste in the past, and how I liked to be treated in those instances.  99% of the time I don’t respond with an actual email back, because there aren’t enough hours in the day, and unlike the publishers and agents I individually approached, this jumped-up pantry boy never set himself up to be contacted, or subject to marketing.  Plus no matter how much effort went into making and marketing it, 98% of what I’m hearing is not what I need right now; not what my ears have needed for some time; and often, I’m afraid, not what they’ve ever needed.

Some of this marketing is well-pitched; occasionally the content is novel, even – like Drew Smith’s commissioning of videos for his songs ‘Smoke and mirrors’ and ‘Love teeth’ from directors in cultures which are not, I imagine, awash with North American singer-songwriters.  But most of it makes me want to run screaming for a hill where there is no electricity, no connectivity, and no music.  And so help me Bob if I have to read the word ‘sophomore’ one more time when used to describe the album an artist releases subsequent to the first, I shall impale the offender on Poseidon’s trident in the central square of the city in which I work (assuming they would be so obliging as to let me, which they might, for a review).  American readers will have to forgive me if this seems an instance of irrational prejudice against their use of the English language – it’s your word and you are perfectly entitled to use it out of its high school or college context – but I cannot stand by any longer and watch as it creeps insistently into British use.  Because there’s a perfectly good word in the British version of English already: second.  ‘Sophomore’ drives me nuts, in a way that the French-sourced synonym for first – debut – for some reason does not.  I suppose what I’m trying to say is: vive la différence.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.  Here to put us all in a better frame of mind is the first song on the second long player by Hugo Largo, and one from what might be said to be Clinic’s second album Internal wrangler, their debut having been a compilation of their first three singles.  Ade Blackburn’s voice is one of those that you knew from the first had nowhere to go, and was always going to be best suited to a scuzzed-up ball of electrocardiographic propulsion such as ‘The second line’.  No matter how Clinic manage to develop as a group, no matter how much more musically sophisticated they have become, they will always be constrained by the limitations of Ade’s singing.  Whereas Mimi Goese’s seemed a voice going somewhere, although perversely I never followed it further than the two LPs she released as part of Hugo Largo.  You have to give yourself over to ‘Turtle song’ and indeed the record whose highlight it was (Mettle).  It’s high art in its intensity in a way that can easily be off-putting if you let it; but if you meet Mimi on her terms, then it’s just as rewarding a listen as it was in 1989.

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4 responses

  1. The only thing I have of Clinic is that debut compilation. I prefer this track to anything on there.

    1. Internal wrangler is a much better listen, but nothing tops ‘The second line’, although ‘Distortions’ and two or three others come close.

  2. As a North American user of the English language, I agree that the use of “sophomore” in this context is irksome, and perhaps even indicative of a sophomoric (sorry, I couldn’t resist) command of the English language. As a side note, I’ve always wondered why the term “sophomoric” means what it does, considering that a second-year student should in theory be more mature than a first-year. Why burden all the sophomores with this negative association? Our language is so strange.

    1. I blame the Greeks myself (sorry, I couldn’t resist that either).

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