Friday, August 18, 2006

Sandi Thom: What if I'm crap

The moment of truth for Sandi Thom is nigh. On 31 August, her follow-up single to the No. 1 international smash "I wish I was a punk rocker (with flowers in my hair)" will be released, and we will see once and for all whether it was all hype or if she has established a fanbase. She has spent much of the last few months appearing at numerous festivals, a trick employed with some success by Roy Harper in the 60s, so it is still unlcear whether people will actually pay to see her (and in the light of the webcast saga, it is notable that so few of the people who saw her live in 2005 liked it very much).

I did quite like "Punk rocker": it was at least original in arrangment, going for acapella and then full band, when it could easliy have been Katie Melua style acoustic wibbling. I even smiled at the start, although I tended to get bored by the end. But it was catchy and instantly memorable and energetic. I've only heard "What if I'm right" once on the radio, but it seemed to be none of those things.

Lyrically, it is different (Full lyrics here): the nostalgia of Punk rocker led those who are cynical to suggest that the song was largely written by the co-writer rather than Thom. "What if I'm right" sounds more like a young person's view of the possible future. But it's not very good: here's my comments:

It wont be an uphill struggle, on you I can depend
you'll cover me in diamonds, there's nothing I want more

"On you I can depend" has to be one of the most awkward lines ever written, and all to achieve a poor rhyme.
Nothing she wants more than being covered with diamonds?
An odd ambition.

And you'll always tape the football
And let me watch my soap

Nothing like being a modern woman, is there? He'll 'let you' watch your soap (which nearly rhymes with coat).

And when I give birth to our children
I will feel no pain

Planet Earth calling Sandi: don't be so superficial. And you know, birth might hurt. You'd certainly thinks so from the screams from the delivery suite.

And you'll bring the showers

What? Showers?

You'll say I'm thin and bring the washing in

What a charming domestic vignette: you're thin, and here's the washing.

And when you need to change the light bulb
You won't hand me the chair

I'm not sure is 'handing you the chair' is some obscure euphemism: it certainly isn't a conventional phrase.

You'll sell your vinyl records
And go get us a loan

She obviously knows someone obsessed with vinyl, since it also came up in Punkrocker (unlike, I would add, Bob Dylan and Neil Young who have always been keen to explore what new technology might bring). As I put it in Written in your heart:

ED: Yes, they ought to warn you when you're 18 that you are forming your musical tastes for life. I've just been buying the Dylan remasters. It's not the same, though. There's something about vinyl. You HAD to respect it- no finger nails, keep it clean, put it away. Not like CDs - Is that a CD or a coffee mat? Answer: both. And the little booklets in one-point type. No substitute for a lyric sheet.

CHARLOTTE: Still, all my vinyl records are unplayable: scratched and warped.

ED: Oh, if you want to be practical! Spoil my Nick Hornby moment!

You'll be my sympathetic lover
And won't steal the covers
But I've got my doubts and what if I'm right?
You won't forsake me
Your mother won't hate me

Now, there is a strong tradition of near-rhymes in popular songs, but this is usually used to allow the use of informal and idiomatic language, not drivel about stealing covers, forsaking (FFS), and mothers in law.

It looks as if Punkrocker was a fluke and that Sandi's natural role is as a teenage wordsmith, indistinguishable, apart from by PR, from all the millions of MySpace 'friends'.

Update: a sad statistic from the Sandi Thom official website Forum:
Most users ever online was 24 on Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:53 pm

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