HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

31 August 2011

Kevin Coyne/Dagmar Krause - 'Babble' (Virgin)

I file this under C-for-Coyne because he wrote all of the songs, and Dagmar is "just" the female perspective vocally, but she sure adds a lot to this, a forgotten masterpiece in my opinion. Babble is a concept album about a relationship falling apart, set in the late 60s. The main theme is communication, but there's a lot of brutal honesty in these songs. It's not something for everyone, nor would I classify this among the greatest downer breakup albums like Mountain Goats' Sweden or Smog's Doctor Came at Dawn. Instead it's a restrained, folk-rock song cycle that tries repeatedly to find hope and strength in failure, but offers no answers. Instead of being duets, the songs are often led by one or the other, though they do come together at points. The opening two cuts are pretty incredible - the male 'Are You Deceiving Me?' and then Dagmar's 'Come Down Here'. These two songs, with lyrics that are actually pretty sparse, are drenched in fear and insecurity and explore a middle-aged emotional territory that few artists ever touch. The vocal performances are stellar, of course, and you would think these two actually had a relationship (though I doubt that). The music is generally folky-blues in that Kevin Coyne style, most rambunctious in 'Stand Up' (which is also probably the weakest, most out-of-place tune lyrically) though 'Sweetheart' could totally be an Art Bears track with it's doom organ and vocal hysterics. 'Shaking Hands with the Sun' is almost a misstep, equating the relationship with Hitler and Mussolini, but that type of extreme simile can work if one is grounded in a similar emotional quagmire. The closing lyric of "it doesn't burn" is repeated in a way that conflicts with the upbeat tune; and then 'My Minds Joined Forces' comes out of it which is the most sarcastic, almost twee mirage of the album. But I gravitate towards brutal, raw honesty which you get in 'I Really Love You' and the Kevin Ayers-like 'Sun Shines Down on Me'. 'I Confess' is the guilt song, and it has the same gentle cadence of Marjory Razor Blade's most successful strummers. This avoids becoming a musical light-opera deal by being fairly untied to the "concept album" format, and having loose, open lyrics that can resonate to anyone, outside of a narrative. The last two tracks are repetitive duets, the first "It really doesn't matter' and the "We know who we are" - both the song titles and only lyrics. It's a trance of resolution, but I can't say that the album ends hopefully; just in an air of resignation.

No comments:

Post a Comment