Said the Guests: Marcello Carlin
by Sean
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.


Marcello Carlin may not be a name you know. It depends what sort of circles you move in. I'll be honest: for your heart's sake, I hope you move toward Marcello's circles if you aren't there already.

Few people have had a deeper impact on Said the Gramophone than Marcello Carlin. He is a music critic. But I'm not sure that I've ever seen any of his print reviews. No - I first saw his work several years ago, on a blog. He has had several, over the years. He opens and closes them as new chapters in his life open and close.* And this is suggestive of the reason why Marcello has been such an inspiration to me. Not because of his encyclopedic musical knowledge, at once erudite and street-canny. Not because of the connections he draws, Girls Aloud to Plato, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to John Cale, Broken Social Scene to The Stones. Not even because of the way with a few lines of his Speakerboxxx/Love Below review he changed the way I listen to hip-hop.

No, because of the way writing about music is a way for him to express his spirit. Or perhaps the other way round - that expressing his spirit is a way to write about the music that moves him.

Or in other words, he helped me decide that music criticism (at least here) can be at once utterly about the music, and - yearningly - for everything else.

For a Stylus mag feature a few years ago, Marcello Carlin wrote:

The important point about music writing is that any critical stance taken towards or against music has biologically and aesthetically to stem from the inner life of the writer. How good that writing becomes, or is, is reliant upon the flexibility of that inner life.
Please make Marcello very welcome here. He's in love.

And Marcello?

Thank you.


* It is a great tragedy that some of Marcello's previous blogging (mostly here) seems to have disappeared; I hope that if this was an intentional choice, he chooses one day to make them available again; regardless, his current online home is very much in bloom. It is a rich pursuit indeed to plumb the archives of that site).

Peter Bjorn and John ft. Victoria Bergsman - "Young Folks" [buy]

Heard in Brighton last weekend during a brief but heavy shower, the record is appropriately rainy and skeletal and seems to have sprung virtually intact from the early winter of 1981; Peter's male lead vocal has the same, slightly irked vulnerability of Andy McCluskey. For most part the dual lead vocals (Victoria Bergsman taking the shaky female role) are accompanied only by Bjorn's bass, which more or less carries the tune, and busy percussion from John, with tangents of whistling, footsteps and distant unattributable rattles - electronic squelches, a 'thundersheet' being manipulated - which suggest the original ghost boxes of Fun Boy Three and A Certain Ratio. She and he are doing less than anything in a less than crowded disco; weary, almost ready to resign from the world, but he gingerly approaches her with a timid warning: 'If you had my story word for word... would you go along with someone like me?' She yawns her response, though not maliciously: �It doesn�t matter what you did�we could stick around and see this night through.� Underneath Bergsman�s reply an organ slowly sidles into the track to provide a blanket of security, and it stays there with everything else slowly increasing in volume and intensity - but still that crucial space, measuring it all up, as though Cupid were tailor rather than archer - as they join in the chorus, where they don't care about anybody else; young folks, old folks, not even 'our own folks'; in their new world no one needs to exist save them - 'All we care about is talking/Talking only me and you.'

The symbiosis ripens as the disco and its inhabitants dissolve around them ('Hours seem to disappear'). They pledge, up to a point, to remain together, even if only for this night; there is what sounds like a bold Link Wray stroke which is actually an artful combination of Spanish guitar and tubular bells. There is so much space in the track, as though they are the only two people left in this world, their world; the angles and perspectives between the whistling and percussion, and the wider dimensions of the song's implications, reveal it as an encouragingly blissful halfway house between Pulsallama's 'The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body' and the Go-Betweens' 'Streets Of Our Town' as remixed by Yo La Tengo at their quietest.

Lighthouse - "One Fine Morning". [buy]

Their Best Of compilation, Sunny Days Again, was given to me as a more than welcome present by my fiancée. Legends in their native Canada, but not much heard of outside the American continent, Lighthouse were clearly a marvel of a group; active between 1968-76, they alone seem to have arrived at a workable equation between jazz, rock and Third Stream music which the likes of Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears attempted to capture. In both latter cases they fell at the expected MoR hurdle; the fall was profitable but artistically near-fatal. But with phalanxes of horns and strings - a young Howard Shore appearing in the sax section - they never succumbed to bombast or pomp; 1973�s big hit single 'Pretty Lady' is a wonderful and sprightly affair which sounds as though Super Furry Animals recorded it two months ago, and as emotionally intelligent AoR pop stands shoulder to shoulder with 'I Saw The Light.'

But 1970's 'One Fine Morning' has become something of an anthem for us; there are the busy drums and bass, the blasting horns, but the thrust is purposeful and seductive, and when Ralph Cole's epileptic funk guitar riffing strides into the picture it is difficult not to think instantly of Haircut One Hundred (a group who also found their own, albeit much belated, equation in this arena). Then Bob McBride's confident but vulnerable lead vocal holds the centre, so much more open and generous than the constipated teeth of David Clayton-Thomas. He wakes up, wipes the sleep from his eyes, goes outside and feels the sunshine, and KNOWS immediately that they will FLY; the euphoria of that 'FLY' extends over two syllables, one short, one long and a sudden octave higher. Viola and 'cello provide a continuo of warmth under the second verse with its miraculous everyday imagery - 'I�ll see your face inside a cloud/See your smile inside a window/Hear your voice inside a crowd� ' before the chorus takes off; one long, unending cry of 'FLY' over an utterly sublime series of chord changes. Lines such as 'candies made of stardust' are the only momentary reminders of when the song was recorded, but the promise, the fulfilled pledge to FLY is carried over the gliding extended main chorus, with cushions of rebounding embraces outlining the globe which their love will inhabit: 'We'll fly to the EAST! We�ll fly to the WEST!' It's ecstatic and sets up Paul Hoffert's piano solo beautifully. 'Every planet will become our home!' McBride exclaims as composer Skip Prokop turns up the pressure on his drums, sounding like two drummers, two souls united as an indissoluble ONE, and Cole's scorching lead guitar runs lays the carpet for the stairway to heaven which the horns gladly ascend, note by note, until it peaks in a CLIMAX and we come a great big glorious YES to make the Milky Way milkier.

One fine morning, girl, I'll wake up
Wipe the sleep from my eyes
Go outside and feel the sunshine
Then I know I'll realize
That as long as you love me, girl, we'll fly

And on that mornin' when I wake up
I'll see your face inside a cloud
See your smile inside a window
Hear your voice inside a crowd
Calling, "Come with me baby and we'll fly"

Yeah, we'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly
We'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly

And on that mornin' when I wake up
We'll go outside and live our dreams
I'll buy you candies made of stardust
And little dolls dressed up in moonbeams
And everywhere we go we'll laugh and sing
I'll kiss you morning, noon and night
And all the universe will smile on us
'Cause they know that our love is finally right

Yeah, we'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly
We'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly

Yeah, we'll fly to the east, we'll fly to the west
There'll be no place we can't call our own
Yeah, we'll fly to the north, we'll fly to the south
Every planet will become our home

------ piano -------

Yeah, we'll fly-y-y, yeah, we'll fly
Yeah, we'll fly to the east, we'll fly to the west
There'll be no place we can't call our own
We'll fly to the north, we'll fly to the south
Every planet will become our home

[Marcello Carlin has written about music for Uncut, Time Out, The Wire and many others. He maintains the blog The Church of Me.]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: artist Johnnie Cluney, Beirut, Jonathan Lethem, Will Butler (Arcade Fire), Al Kratina, Eugene Mirman, artist Dave Bailey, Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Michael Nau (Page France), Devin Davis, Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Hello Saferide, Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.). There are many more to come.)

Posted by Sean at September 20, 2006 3:00 AM

Many thanks, Sean - just to point out that The Naked Maja is still available to read, albeit now retitled The Clothed Maja, and you can find it at

As far as the Koons blog is concerned all the posts still exist in draft form and I'll be systematically republishing them as demand and whim allow...

Posted by Marcello Carlin at September 20, 2006 8:22 AM

Let me be the first to welcome you to STG, Marcello. 'Young Folks' has been brightening up my world for some time now. 'One Fine Morning' is great, but oh so short - is that fade intentional? And can I endorse Sean's comments - all of Marcello's music writing is very much worth reading, including the one bit Sean doesn't mention, the rolling pick of the pops commentary that can be found here - fascinating stuff.

Posted by dymbel at September 20, 2006 12:17 PM

I know it's very late, and maybe unwelcome at this point, but here is the URL for the Julie Doiron video, "me and my friend". Enjoy. or don't.

Posted by Danica at September 20, 2006 10:48 PM

thanks for the great music and the competent writing, marcello. my love for music seems to be receding recently but songs like "young folks" prove that i am mistaken. there is still so much to discover out there. why don't you do an mp3 blog?

Posted by alex at September 21, 2006 9:49 AM

Dunno about an mp3 blog, but Lena and I are quite keen on doing some podcasts in the fullness of time...

Posted by Marcello Carlin at September 21, 2006 10:33 AM

A podcast would be fantastic! :)

Posted by Carl at September 21, 2006 11:54 AM

a podcast would be even better. more direct. more physical. go for it, marcello!

Posted by alex at September 21, 2006 6:14 PM

Jeez, Marcello is so far up his own ass he's actually a knot.
You want great music writing? Try Stevie Chick, Victoria Segal or Paul Connolly. All miles ahead of Marcello.

Posted by josh smyth at September 5, 2007 4:40 PM

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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.

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