Bonnie Prince Billy, The b-sides for Time To Be Clear 7”, 2012

I Time to be clear frontthink the single itself, “Time To Be Clear” from Wolfroy Goes To Town was released as an itunes only single, or at least as a digital file, and here we get the b-sides exclusively for 7″. For some reason the a-side here – the melody – often has me thinking of the beautiful “With Cornstalks Or Among Them” from The Wonder Show Of The World. That song mostly works, with a break for genre-hopping on the chorus, while the b-side comes across a bit yawnsome.

time to be clear labelWhipped… you can pretty much put the word “pussy” in front of the song’s title and there you have the song’s content laid out bare. The song ends with a declaration of love, as “I’m in love,” which is a result of the narrator being “whipped and cowed”. He’ll now hoot and holler, which is essentially what he’s just been doing in the middle of the song where the dynamic rises to a dramatic noisy multi-voiced crescendo. At song opening, the narrator tells his friends, “you go on boys, I’m good, think I’ll stay in today.” He’s quieter, tired, and older, and says he’s “been chosen to be whipped.” What makes him so happy is the “pot of gold” which welcomes him home from the cold, “my pleasure, o my treasure … the opening that I had so dreamed for,” and often screamed (or ‘schemed’) for. When he finally finds her, he hounds her “to get mine.” Yes, it “must be love” and he’ll “hoot and holler” but only if he’s allowed, because after all, he’s the submissive type who likes to be whipped. The music for a couple of verses is a winding guitar line, a slow reflective mood, a bass, sweet backing vocal-echoes, and Oldham’s voice eventually hitting finer and more finely nuanced notes, until the corny, bombastic eighties style chorus, which is just as hookworthy as it is cringeworthy. Nevertheless it secretly works its magic, and when Oldham returns to the final verse with a beautifully shaky “well” we know we’re back in that ambiguous territory between comedy and emotion. Quite nice actually.

Time to be clear labekOut Of Mind… there is a Cure b-side called “Out Of Mind” on back of the Lullaby 12” single, and it’s almost as awful as this one, mainly because, to my way of thinking, writing a song called “Out of Mind” provides cheap opportunity for easy wackiness. In this song Oldham’s narrator appears quite lost—he’s lost his identity, his status, his sense of purpose, although the doctor denies all of his claims, and no one is willing to answer any of his questions or even “look me in the eye.” The point of the song might be that this fellow has just a had major paradigm shift in consciousness – “Why does the world keep on shifting?” The ‘truth’ of the song is that we all pretend, which is true to some extent—we buy into the social contract and the illusion of duality between subject and object by buying into language. By pretending to be happy, to be sane, to be together with someone, you can make it so, “heaven will be ours soon,” but still, in the end, no one can provide you with any truth about who you are exactly and look you in the eye while doing so. So is he crazy, or is he only perceived as crazy for asking the questions to which there are no answers? In any case it’s a little-bit-run-of-the-mill shaken-foundations song. And the very run-of-the-mill country-pop beat melody supports my flagging interest, until, that is, a section in the second half of the song – here a military beat starts up, Oldham’s voice goes into an odd register, Olsen joins him on the chorus, things get quite rousing it cannot be denied, and you hum along despite feeling like you’ve heard it a thousand times before.

time to be clear backI’ve enjoyed these tracks but as with all 7″s, they generally don’t get much repeat play once I’ve loved and left them. These are obviously lesser tracks that one imagines were recorded during the Wolfroy sessions, yet there’s enough here to maintain interest for a few spins, “Whipped” being the worthier of the two tracks. So this was 2012 wasn’t it? We got a lot more 10″ and 7″ releases over those 12 months.

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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