Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cymbal #11::The Connells and the Gateway Song

I came across this song in a green and black Winamp window in the Comp Lab at NLS in my first year. That folder (a then unimaginable 8 gigabytes of music) held hundreds of singles, some forgettable, some unavoidable and a few which were sincerely magical.

74 75 doesn't make any more sense than it did then, but that same conviction in the poignancy of the song holds. I know it's a simple enough melody but a few things make it work. The twin bass notes at the end of the phrase toll out time. The instruments-as-chorus stretch it out endlessly.

The Connells - 74 75

So I went ahead and looked up The Connells, expecting to find the same lack of depth that you'd encounter with a million one-hit wonders. The same sound again and again, slowed down, sped up, chipmunked, whatever.

But 74 75 didn't come out nowhere. The Connells were a local alt-rock sensation in North Carolina for years before they ever got heard outside. It must have taken exactly that kind of relative isolation to stew in the sound of tapes and eight tracks and LPs to come up with the sound in the earlier songs. There are deep melodic basslines, tempo changes, a love for choruses - all inspired- and a product that's actually very very original.

The Connells - Scotty's Lament-1987

Try to put your finger on it. There's some early REM very strong in the mix in the experimentation. Distinct traces of the Velvet Underground, especially in the reluctance to overplay a good thing. A mournfulness in both voice and guitar that could only have been echoing the Smiths transatlantically. For moments, I could swear Johnny Marr was behind that guitar and that chamber tone. There's a celtic sadness which isn't even cheesy.

The Connells - Seven - 1986

Seven, there's no getting around it, sounds like a livelier Joy Division- a Joy Division with groove. That's a bit special, innit?

The sound changed over time, changed many times over. It became nineties pop the sunshiney way. Not half bad, but you've heard this kind of thing many times.

The Connells - Stone Cold Yesterday

But I keep coming back to 74 75. It's the one that opened the door for me. But a song you listen to that much never opens only one door - it's also a door back to a time and place, the green coconut palms and the warm Bangalore sun. Strangely, it also takes me back to a basement with pink curtains and an empty fire extinguisher.

By the way, Cymbal #10 got MASSIVE love. Thanks for listening, folks.

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