Bonnie “Prince” Billy & The Cairo Gang, Midday/You Win 7″, 2010

Rmidday frontather than make The Wonder Show Of The World a 12 song album, it seems the strategy was to hack off the two songs that fit the least into that collection and release them as a separate 7”. The first, “Midday” is a little too cheerful and country twang to fit with Wonder Show. “You Win” comes closer with its sorrowful or apologetic tone, and ramblingly fast arpeggios, but it hasn’t quite had the full range of studio treatment that the songs on the album must have had, sounding slightly less produced and arranged. However, in the manner of all good Bonnie singles, the tracks here complement each other, as though the B-side is a response to the A. Both keep it quick and short.

midday labelMidday… is an ode to the joys of daytime sex set to a jaunty acoustic strum and makeshift percussion pitter-pat, with pedal steel floating hither thither in the background, giving it a strong country feel; and hey, these lovers might even take their wild thing outside. The Bonnie narrator begins flirting with his “valentine,” and “her eyes light up,” just like that, and they’re off to tangle themselves “in a juicy little love knot, my valentine and me,” because “Midday is the time for open ecstasy.” And ain’t it true. Midday sex. Then a little humour emerges, the theme repeats, Bonnie having had his morning coffee, he’s ready to go “o’er the hump” (punning on the midday theme) and “do the crunch,” though sometimes it might be before or after lunch. Naturally, the song ends on a celebratory note, “Let’s do it all midday. Let’s do it all midday.” Who can argue with that? Lovely tangle of notes in the bridge to the second verse, and Bonnie croons those final lines, followed by an elongated savvy country bow out. But still, short and sweet, it doesn’t quite make for essential Billy listening.

midday labelYou Win… is a fitting counterpart to “Midday” only this time it’s an end of the day lovers’ quarrel, opening with “I don’t have any more fight left in me.” The music is all somber Nick Drake guitar arpeggios, Oldham’s voice tones in shadowy mode, tender as love, delicate, just touching lightly on the surface of the song, until the line about pain where the voice strains into the mic and the increased volume momentarily intensifies the theme. By the end of the song he’ll be taking an Obi-wan Kenobi stance, dropping his light saber and giving in: in a lovers’ fight, he who enacts a victory by submitting defeat, wins no? In between there’s a brief narrative: “Bonny” has been punched and hooked, suffered too much gloom and pain, puts his hands in the air “where all eyes can see,” stating “I’ve no threat to deliver so leave old Bonny be.” Cue, a lovely distant high harmony. The song gets most interesting in the third verse where he tells his beau, “when deception returns and anger holds sway / Oh push me aside and say you will not play.” He admits that for him it ends up becoming a game, which is pointless, hence, “I’ll yield,” and “you win.” How does he heal? By singing of course, “softly.” And this is a very soft song. Nice, and more affecting than the A-side.

midday backFrom memory this 7″ came out after the Wonder Show album hit stores, so I guess it was more like ‘addenda’ than a promotional single. A bonus for those who buy vinyl. Oldham leant his Bonnie persona to four 7″ singles in 2010. The next would be the split single, a Larry Jon Wilson tribute with The Black Swans.

About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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