Let's Begin By Saying Goodbye
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Junior Boys - "Count Souvenirs"

Swoon-synth duo Junior Boys was the first overwhelming evidence I had that this music-blog fad might offer not only reams of conversation - which was plenty enough incentive - but indispensible new music. It was late 2003, the track was "Birthday," and the sensation was dizzying: Here a random group of UK critics and amateurs (a word I use here in its best sense, as in lovers) was hyping prodigal sonic sons just a few miles west of my home, Toronto - they were in Hamilton, Ont. And it would be months yet until the album, Last Exit, would come out.

“Some city scenes, you’re like a pre-teen, chasing all the latest news/ But back at home, we fix old radios, wiping off the dusted tunes”

It all seems ages ago now. Ages in music and in my life. Even that era in music blogging seems to have shuffled off its (verbal) coil, for both good and ill. Which makes Junior Boys’ upcoming So This Is Goodbye seem an improbable phantasm, a table-tap out of a seance. All part of the band’s sleight-of-hand, of course - the first album was supposedly a “last exit," yet this next stands on the threshold saying its farewells. The third album, in 2008, will no doubt be called, I Really Must Get Out of Bed and Go, Have You Seen My Socks?. Singer-writer Jeremy Greenspan and collaborator Matt Didemus work in Momento time, moving forward facing back, whistling while they drag the spirits of Cole Porter and Steely Dan unawares into the 21st century via a 1980s-vintage time machine.

"Count Souvenirs" is the most haunted and not coincidentally most compelling of the Goodbye tracks I’ve heard so far, with Greenspan working the sepia vein in his silver nitrate with a hand surer and warmer for its experience (yet still begging, “please don’t touch”). The title calls to mind standards such as "Among My Souvenirs." Yet where that song clearly paints a singer, a “me,” left alone with the tokens of a lost lover, in this version the speaking subject is barely present. Is there even an “I” in this song? He’s a man on the verge of third person, with a “we” that may as well be a “they,” so alienated is he, so outmatched by the charisma of the lover’s remnants. (Because objects dominate consciousness now?) He's become a wisp, a watcher from a bell jar, a mere value adjustor, as the dim prospect of the lover’s return holds the deed to all the space the song can spare.

“Hotel lobbies like painful hobbies that linger on”

The story could be that of American Purgatorio by John Haskell: A man goes in search of the wife who seems to have left him suddenly, without warning. He takes only a few possessions, mostly pictures and other talismans of her, and attempts to zero his instinct, his whole consciousness, on the mystery of where she has gone. As if to read her footprints in the earth's magnetism. And as he goes he finds himself shedding his personality layer by layer, to free his hands to hold on to the past. But of course the past will not be held. Can it even be touched? Or will it puncture?

Listen, as the song slides towards its ending, to the bits of backward-running sound in the breaks, as if the song itself were trying to reverse course. The lyrics linger on souvenirs but the music is eager from the outset to move on, motoring through the first two-thirds of the tune and then soaring suspended into a clearing.... Even by the end, the singer hasn't caught up with the music's hints. Perhaps that’s the body knowing better than the mind. But is music always body and lyric always mind? What of the world and the self, or time outstripping tone, forward trumping back? Maybe there’s not much knowing to be done here at all, under the dire, ever-retroactive emergency of mortality.

I've been living in a similar set of rooms, you see, the kind that disperse unbidden down avenues and bypasses, and that's the best guess I've got.

Posted by Carl Wilson at June 28, 2006 5:44 AM

man, that's some write up...
I'll keep an eye out for your posts in furure.

Posted by André at June 28, 2006 8:50 AM

very, very well done. ghost stories.

Posted by cody at June 28, 2006 10:56 AM

i almost get the same lonely, haunted feeling in your post as i do from the music. thank you.

Posted by tim+ at June 28, 2006 11:57 AM

i love this record and this song, but i think it sounds *a lot* like "strangelove" by depeche mode.

Posted by quarbz at June 28, 2006 2:16 PM

hey carl, you're my new favourite StG writer!nice scribblings. sean who? :P

Posted by the king is dead at June 28, 2006 3:39 PM

Wow. Great post & beautiful song. I can't wait for more!

Posted by Karin S. at June 28, 2006 4:29 PM

Nice song. And it undoubtedly steals the melody from "Strangelove." Will DP lawyer up? Sales of their latest says: why not ...

Posted by J Frank Parnell at June 29, 2006 3:23 PM

I love the track in the morning from this same album. Great post, thanks!

Posted by shaggyscotsman at July 7, 2006 9:21 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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