3 April 2008

The Second Hand Store Dip Part 3 - The Lover Speaks - No More I Love Yous

The Lover Speaks

What: The Lover Speaks: “No More I Love Yous”
Label: A&M
Year of Release: 1986
Where: House of Rhythm, Walthamstow (don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore)
Cost: 50p

I suppose there’s one thing I should make clear from the offset here, and that is I am not a fan of Annie Lennox. Oh, I know she has rabid fans who believe she is the female David Bowie, the queen of all divas, the first powerful woman in eighties music… but all I can hear is a very cold, alienating (if strong) voice singing along to some rather bland material. Let’s not get started on her videos or television appearances, either – her spookfaced expressions and odd arm-waving gestures seemed like antiquated throwbacks to the likes of Toyah and Hazel O’Connor by the time the late eighties kicked in. Both should consider suing for a part of her small fortune.

I was strangely surprised in the early nineties to find myself enjoying a record of hers, then. “No More I Love Yous” seemed to have more of a sense of the ridiculous about it than her other material – it seemed playful and adventurous, as well as occasionally hinting at darker depths. The odd, slightly child-like “dibby dibby dib dib dib” backing vocals were perplexing and quite unlike anything else on the radio at that point. It took me at least six months to get around to realizing that actually, it was a cover version of an obscure old flop from the previous decade. Ah well.

It took me another decade again to even chance upon the original single for sale for 50p in a slightly run-down second hand record store in Walthamstow. Feeling I couldn’t really go wrong for the price of a Mars bar, I took it to the counter and bought it home to hear it in its original glory, and I initially found it incredibly amusing. This record is so bombastic, so ludicrously over the top (more so even than the cover version) that at first it seems almost indecent, as if one shouldn’t be listening. The vocals holler, bellow, wail and sob for your attention, all in that soulful mid-eighties baritone that so many vocalists of this era favoured. The drums pound and crash, the guitar does its obligatory solo at the end, and the whole thing is a veritable Laurence Olivier of a disc. The lyrics add to the effect, with over-the-top Shelley-esque observations. “I used to have demons in my room at night/ Desire! Despair! Desire! So many monsters!” sobs the singer.

For all that, though, it’s such an eccentric record, even within the very straight pop structure it inhabits, that it’s actually really likeable. There’s a slickness to the entire thing that firmly datestamps it in the mid-eighties, but it’s slightly too bizarre to file next to Living in a Box or Johnny Hates Jazz. Pretentious it may be, but given that pretence is a duty of a lot of great pop music or entertainment, it shouldn’t be given a hard time for that alone. There’s a lot of imagination going on here, and you’d be hard pressed to find a similar sounding record in the same period.

It wasn’t a hit, of course (I wouldn’t be writing about it if it were), peaking at number 58 in the charts, although they were signed to Dangerous Dave Stewart’s publishing company, so I’m sure there was a tiny bit of nepotism going on with Lennox’s cover. All concerned can be forgiven. It’s the sort of record which sums up what the mid-eighties would have sounded like if the more extreme elements of New Romanticism had come to their conclusion. Instead, we were treated to a lot of slick pseudo-soul in the mainstream, and it became one of the more boring periods for pop music in living memory. A shame, but I’m sure The Lover Speaks eventually got a nice fat royalty cheque for this one, so justice came their way in their end.

Altogether now – “Dibby dibby dib dib dib/ Oh-oh….”


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