Song of the moment for me and an early contender for song of the year, can’t hear it enough.
It’s a ballad from the Roy Orbison branch of rockabilly with more than a little “Born to Run” era Bruce in the vocal. It’s about lost love, longing, living a lie, typical rock and roll themes. As the song opens the singer is listening to a record that brings back memories of a girl, just as the style of the song harkens back to the past. There’s an adult admission–“I know it’s not black and white”–but then a teenage burst of emotion:
I dream of you/through all my shades of blue
I still love you/through all my shades of blue
There’s a wonderful, keening vocal and a chorus you want to sing along with at the top of your lungs although you know it’s kind of sad. There are subtle production touches courtesy of Rick Rubin, the drum fills, the crystal clear glockenspiel notes (another nod to Bruce?) The band is led by two brothers, Rupert and Henry Stansall, and their voices blend in that brotherly way familiar from the Everlys or Righteous Brothers (who I know weren’t brothers).
And finally it’s all post-modern and self-aware in (as others have noticed) a David Lynch sort of way. Rupert, the lead singer, seems to want you to know he’s imitating Roy or Johnny Cash and not quite getting there but fuck that, he’s still going to try the hell out of it. Which is just the sort of things you’d do to impress a girl.
I love this song but prefer the other, wilder branch of rockabilly, the more limited one that verges on the unhinged, that often takes itself or music or dancing or clothes as its subject matter, that promises a Saturday night of the soul that will redeem all the dark ones. The Ruens shoot for that on much of the rest of the album but for me they don’t ever catch it. The songs aren’t strong enough, and post-modern generally works better in a room by yourself than at a party. “Aces” and “Finer Things” are good but the Bodeans did it better and seemed to mean it more. Rank and File too.
The Ruen Brothers hail from someplace called Scunthorpe in Northern England. They definitely look the part but again in a self-aware, dress-up way. They look very, very young. How did they ever hook up with Rick Rubin? It’s probably a good story. Will they ever come up with anything as good as this song again? Probably not, but I’ll keep open ears.