Three Confused British Men
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.


Rod Stewart - "Mandolin Wind"

My friend David Marchese wrote about rewinding this song over and over on his cassette player as a kid walking his dog in North York and I fell in love with him a little after reading that. Rod Stewart, who writes most of his worst songs about being a flighty blonde bimbo, writes his best songs when he shows the soul behind the bimbo. "Mandolin Wind" is off his first album Every Picture Tells A Story and unlike "Three Time Loser" (where he admits to jackin' off to Playboy) or "Maggie May" (where he admits to getting kicked in the head by his MILF girlfriend), the song is all soft sweetness and hidden feelings. "Mandolin Wind" is a song about winter in Buffalo where things get really cold and bleak and a guy that's not great at communicating. The soft opening guitar lines track the beginning of a relationship, through the endless snow and rain. Stewart keeps repeating the refrain "and I know I love ya" over and over, but it doesn't seem like words are enough in this doomed Buffalo shack-up. The lyricism is simple - "Don't have much but what I've got is yours/except my steel guitar." At the 2:30 mark, there is a brief moment of silence, like crossing the threshold of a big drop on a roller coaster, and the song dips into the greatest, most life affirming mandolin solo of all time that sounds like babies being born, and trees sprouting buds and riding your bike with no handlebars. Then the song picks up again where it left off as the couple grows hungry in the winter and the love goes away. (Even Rod feels "it hard to hide my tears.") The mandolin wind, this ecstatic rush of passion, can't change a thing - but the song remains the same. I've probably listened to this song a 100 times and it doesn't get any more perfect than that mandolin solo or the hard rocking resilient conclusion. The moral? Don't move to Buffalo with Rod Stewart and protect your feelings carefully.

Joe Jackson - "Is She Really Going Out With Him?"

Lately I've been doing this thing where I sing along to pre-recorded karaoke singles on my iPhone when I'm convinced myself that my roommates aren't home.* This practice (and I consider it one, the way self-righteous yogis talk about perfecting their internal breathing) has changed the way I think about the performance of pain. Joe Jackson is the single karaoke singer's hero. He writes songs about lonely people who think they're better than everyone else but feel wronged by society anyway. For years I thought "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" was about a man who couldn't believe that the girl he loved was dating a schmuck. Perfecting my "look over there - where?" in my messy bedroom, I realized that "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" isn't a love song about one girl in particular, it's a song about how society as a whole is fucked. Why won't anyone love Joe Jackson? Why doesn't Joe Jackson love Joe Jackson? I don't know, but I like him a whole lot better than Elvis Costello.

The Streets - "I Love You More (Than You Like Me)"

Mike Skinner sounds like a vaguely autistic man reading a series of drunk text messages on this rap song (off the highly underrated 2008 Streets album Everything Is Borrowed)*, which is why I like it. This complicated rap song sounds like the inner monologue of a sensitive loser - and if my thoughts and feelings were as badly articulated as they are in Skinner's rap, I wouldn't send those texts. In some ways, it's the "geezer" reversal of Stewart's song - a plain, matter of fact deterioration of a would-be love affair told through the guise of a British faux gangster. "I think I love you more than you like me" goes the chorus to Stewart's coda, accompanied by a dainty piano track. And when he starts whining about how he spent the night drawing but secretly sucks at it ("drawing" pronounced the way Paddington Bear might), you know this girl is better off.

*Cool, right? My repertoire mostly consists of Patsy Cline's "Crazy," The Smiths "This
Charming Man" and sometimes when drunk, Alicia Bridges "I Love The Nightlife."

**Am I the only one who still likes The Streets? I think most of modern society has
forgotten Mike Skinner exists, which is sad because most of his raps are about this very problem.

[Buy Every Picture Tells a Story]
[Buy Look Sharp!]
[Buy Everything is Borrowed]

Posted by Chandler at April 15, 2011 9:56 AM

I still like The Streets. And I'm going to steal the line about the autistic man reading drunk texts the next time I recommend them to somebody.

Posted by Sandra at April 15, 2011 5:30 PM

I love Joe Jackson even more after reading this.

Posted by Kevin at April 16, 2011 10:08 AM

that climactic moment of Mandolin Wind is so well summed up here. I can relate to All of that.

Posted by Erika at April 16, 2011 10:57 AM


Posted by Ni at April 16, 2011 10:07 PM

but wait! we haven't forgotten mike skinner. computers and blues is super. mostly. and what isn't super is saved but what is super super. so, anyway...

Posted by A2 at April 18, 2011 11:15 AM

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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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our favourite blogs
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Back to the World
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Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
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Words and Music
Petites planétes
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Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
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Awesome Tapes from Africa
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Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
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radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
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Passion of the Weiss
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Horses Think
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Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
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My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
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