heard on the wire

Remember the lesson of Take That

In my previous musical musing, I dismissed a swathe of musical royalty whose undoubted accomplishments sit uncomfortably in my ears. Now I’m turning my attention to artists cherished by many but which I generally scorn or at best tolerate: Abba, ELO, the Scissor Sisters and Take That.

My response to hearing these four ranges from irritation to outright hostility, but as is usually the case in our dialectical world, things are never that simple. Each, in their own small way, has something to offer even the most belligerent.

First Abba and the song that fans chose as the Swedish Eurovision winner’s third best track. With a lyric as beautifully heartfelt as this and a tune far removed from the band’s standard disco-pop, this should have been number one. At least it fared better in that chart than it did upon release, when it climbed to the heady heights of number 32 in the UK hit parade.

Abba :: The Day Before You Came

Released in 1982, the song was the band’s last recording together and writers Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus had clearly been listening to the new wave of synth-pop bands populating the airwaves and the charts at the time. Among them were Blancmange, who had a top-ten hit with Living on the Ceiling in ’82 and followed it two years later with a top-ten LP, Mange Tout, which included this cover.

Blancmange :: The Day Before You Came

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I’m also quite partial to Abba’s Super Trouper, though I prefer this this beautifully understated version.

Camera Obscura :: Super Trouper

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Now, breathe easily, I’m not going to inflict any ELO on you, I’ll leave that to The Delgados and a cover I love so much that it’s appeared here before. This was recorded for a 2002 Peel Session that also featured covers of songs by The Dead Kennedys, Ewan MacColl and Yusuf Islam (as Cat Stevens).

The Delgados :: Mr Blue Sky

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This may not come as much of a surprise I’m not aware of any decent versions of Scissor Sister songs but the band did make a good fist of an extremely tedious Pink Floyd song. And the fact that it annoys precious Floyd fans only adds to the enjoyment.

Scissor Sisters :: Comfortably Numb

But even that doesn’t excuse Scissor Sister Ana Matronic’s contribution to this awful three and a half minutes, the worst New Order song ever.

New Order :: Jetstream

Which leaves us with the That, a group enjoying a lucrative renaissance with their adult-oriented, Radio 2-friendly pap. But once, just once, they were good.

Take That :: Back for Good

But not as good as this.

The Wedding Present :: Back For Good

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Which all serves to remind us that there can be beauty in the most unexpected places. In the words of MJ Hibbett:

Remember the lesson of Take That,
If a pile of pillocks pretend to like it, doesn’t mean it’s crap.
And remember the lesson of The Smiths,
Just because a bunch of wankers like it, doesn’t mean that it’s shit.

MJ Hibbett and the Validators :: The Lesson of the Smiths

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