The Music Meme: Day 15

Day 15: A song people wouldn't expect you to like

This prompt strikes me as in many ways similar to Day 7's "Guilty Pleasure," though I suppose it's possible for people to be utterly unsurprised that you like a song that you also find embarrassing. Maybe it depends on your musical taste and how well people know it.

But for me, this is another somewhat challenging prompt because of my aforementioned catholic taste; people who know me well enough to have expectations about my musical tastes are likely to know about that catholicity, so how surprised can they be? It's like being surprised that Meryl Streep could play THAT role, or that Donald Trump would insult THAT group of people.

The first step, then, is to consider what forms of music I'm most likely to complain about in public. I have real issues with a lot of opera, primarily due to the fact that the vocal style favored by most modern performers does not sit well with me. It's not that they're no good, but that they're really good at doing something I hate hearing. In the higher registers, operatic sopranos and even some tenors can hurt me. I love massed voices, so choral music is generally fine, and overtures and other instrumental sections are just dandy, but most arias leave me completely cold. That said, there aren't many places where I've been exposed to opera in a public space where I could comment on it, so I suspect most people don't know about my issues with it.

Similarly, I've been known to complain about a lot of individual songs, and lord knows I can rag on individual performers in other genres--the jazz musician who's not interpreting the song so much as he's showing off, the country singer whose cowboy hat is worn as a union badge, and so on--but I suppose the best song for this prompt would be a song by an artist whose work generally leaves me cold, except for That One Song.

Among the artists I've publicly denounced over the years are Morrissey and Lou Reed, though as I've aged I've gotten fonder of the latter's work, particularly with the Velvet Underground. I have not backed off my position on Morrissey's voice, however, particularly when he's draping it lazily over the third of the backing chord, as is his wont; great lyricist, but his singing will never appeal to me, and personally he seems like a bit of a prat as well. Also, there's not really a song of his that I really like (though the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now" is pretty darned good--but almost exclusively because of Johnny Marr's guitar, and Marr I've praised on a number of occasions.)

Still, there's one artist whose catalog is widely praised by many people of respectable musical taste, but which leaves me almost entirely cold: the Cure. Despite having been exposed to their music regularly since 1981, I find their particular blend of post-punk rock, goth, and dance just doesn't move me, with two exceptions: one song I like a good deal, and one song I flat-out love.

The song I like comes from The Head on the Door, which in 1985 appeared in the WXYC playbox in 1985, as most Cure releases did. I don't remember which DJ wrote the review on the album--maybe Ken Friedman?--but whoever it was took note of one song as a highlight, and when it came time for me to give the record its required spin, I dropped the needle down on "The Baby Screams" and was very pleasantly surprised. I still find it a wonderfully propulsive tune whose melody, echoing piano, and skittery guitar work disturb me in just the right way.

But the one Cure song I absolutely, categorically love? It's a 1983 song that (naturally) many hardcore Cure fans dislike intensely because it's so atypical: "The Love Cats." 

I'm sorry, you can complain about some of Robert Smith's choices in musical style or personal grooming if you like, but that acoustic bass line (thank you, Phil Thornalley) is just plain genius. The rest of the arrangement is equally good--spacious, but completely engaging, with lively guitar and even a tasty little horn chart. This is the only Cure song I know where they sound like they're having any kind of fun. Smith even comes close to scat once or twice. It's fantastic.

I first heard this tune on the jukebox at some pub in Manchester and was astonished when (several listens later) I found out who it was. Briefly I considered changing my mind about the band, but the other Cure songs I've heard over the years have generally confirmed my opinions. I don't really like them much, and I don't own any of their albums except their best-of collection, and I'm okay with all that. But dammit, I will go to the wall to defend "The Love Cats." It's a wonderful piece of work, a little gem of a pop song. Expectations be damned.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 20, 2017 10:43 AM.

The Music Meme: Day 14 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Music Meme: Day 16 is the next entry in this blog.

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