03 January 2006

orange juice - "tenterhook" (from the very best of orange juice lp, shamefully only available as an import, though purchasable here.)

though i should probably shun it professionally, personally i absolutely adore songs that begin w/ prepositions. certainly, there's a sense of voyeurism, of espying another's dirty laundry. my superego, though, prefers that i think about it in terms of being a selection from a much longer story, an invitation to extract some universal from a particular.

but that's not all that "tenterhook" begins w/. prior to edwyn's grammatical indiscretion, the guitars uncoil and slowly mutate, from a roy orbison ballad into a similar style from lynyrd skynyrd into richard thompson. i wish i could call it "recognizably orange juice," but they did this sort of thing far too infrequently. (one thing it's not is recognizably velvet underground; similarities exist, true, but it'd be overly simplistic to reduce it so.) it's almost a 12/8 ballad, but it's actually a kitchen sink drama, and it all centers around the idea of laundry.

tenterhooks, fresh laundry, clean sheets--it all leads back to the bed, w/ apologies to the kitchen sink, the center of most romantic dramas. it is the source of intense pleasure and deep loss and grief, which just about sums up "tenterhook." edwyn narrates in the past tense, his voice in fine fettle, hitting some of the highs and many of the lows. fit as a fiddle ... and ready for love? no, not love, but it's opposite. "fit as a fiddle but so noncommittal," he sings, doing his best to stifle a smile. he and his girl could have changed the world; now they won't. sad, a bit; regrettable, yes; silly--that too, as all our youthful hopes must one day seem, when one reaches the proper perspective.

"tenterhook" is an extraordinary thing--indeed, the most extraordinary thing orange juice ever recorded, at least from where i stand. the mixing of memories and desire, of happy and sad, is an accomplishment; so, too, is the mingling of the clever and the affecting, a rarity in pop, at least pop outside of the orange juice oeuvre. oh, and i can't forget about the guitars : what makes this once again an extraordinary thing, and a rarity for orange juice songs, is that it's just as good w/ edwyn as it is w/o him. the song ends on a bed of guitars that unfurl out into the distance, much like i can see the oft-cruel month of january opening up before me. it is songs like "tenterhook" that make that prospect not entirely unpleasurable.

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