Back in 1987 and thereabouts we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have Allmusic or Pitchfork or Sixsquare. We just had the local record store. We’d go there every week and dig through the bins, see what was written on the board, flip through our favorite bands to see if by some chance Billy Squier had released something new that afternoon.
Usually, he hadn’t.
I kinda feel that way about the wait for something new from Siobhan Donaghy. I want something new, but aside from her well-publicized turn in Rent, the Intarwebs are notably quiet on her whereabouts. I’ve taken to popping round her official site on occasion, which, for all intents and purposes, is like dropping by the music store on a Tuesday afternoon.
I was tipped off to her stuff last year by some music blog or other (I’d thought it was Scissorkick, but I can’t find the post) and I checked it out with more than a little skepticism. Donaghy had been a Sugababe after all. On first listen, I liked the collection. It had a musky, hi-tech swirl to it that was different than I’d expected. But I only liked it. I didn’t love it.
Months later, I took it with me to Australia. High over the Pacific Ocean, the album began to reveal some more of its secrets, and I found that it gravitated towards the top of my playlists more and more. And there it has remained since, especially its opening cut and the three that close the album. There’s a dark majesty about Donaghy’s work. It’s pop with a dark side. It’s clever articulation of pop ideas that doesn’t insult the intelligence and, somehow, results in a clutch of tunes that stand up to repeated play.
It’s easiest to demonstrate this by offering up the album’s title track. “Ghosts,” is the final cut on the album, and for good reason. It’s a peculiar beast. The lyrics are indecipherable. The melody, intricate. The production, layered and dense. Yet there’s something fascinating about it. Check out the song in its entirety first:
Yeah, yeah, I know. Those lyrics aren’t in English. Not forward English, anyway. So let’s drop it on the turntable and listen to some of it backwards:
“She’s [doing something] to dresses. She can’t carry on. But her nimble fingers. Still feel the cold.”
I can’t discern what Little Dorrit’s doing to those dresses, but who cares? And though this line is, in fact, reversed in this excerpt, elsewhere in the track she pronounces the lyric in reverse. It’s all so David Lynch. And live? Well, she just sings it outright, all the way through: link to one blogger’s tongue-in-cheek attempt at lyric-spotting, and another link to a low-key live performance, which, in spite of her awkward stage presence and the distorted sound, still manages to kick ass.
All this fun from a single offbeat cut? And not even the strongest on the album, at that?
I’m ready for more please, Miss Donaghy. I just wanna see what’s next. No pressure. Take your time. But hurry. Seriously, I’m patient. I can wait.