Thursday Thive: God Bless Your Black Heart

Posted on January 30, 2014

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the pAper chAse didn’t cater the tastes of all, and despite my adoration of them I can see why. They peddled a line of pop songs that were without doubt nursery rhyme-esque in their immediate hooking. The problem was that much like a lot of what we know and love as family Disney today, these nursery rhymes and fables were built from horror movie origins. the pAper chAse are the logical successor to Disney. They are a band best listened to in headphones, so as to not miss all of the little twitches that you’d otherwise be ignorant of. For years, I’ve been adamant that ‘Hide the Kitchen Knives‘ was their best record, even to the point of it finishing 8th in the John Bills 100 in 2011. (Side note: it’s been three years? Wow.)

Maybe I was wrong, because God Bless Your Black Heart is making a pretty good argument for that spot. It was the first album by Congleton and co that I heard as a fan, that is to say the first one released whilst I was aware of the band. I remember finding a download for the lyrics before the album came out, that’s how excited I was. The album is choc-full of what you expect from the pAper chAse, that is all pop hooks and the sharpening of knives. Plus any album that starts and ends with the same noise wins for me. Let’s thive it.

5: ‘What I’d Be Without Me’
‘What has born will die, what has been gathered will be dispersed, what has been accumulated will be exhausted, what has been built up will collapse and what has been high will be brought low’. Cheery stuff, quite obviously. ‘Dear Diary’ type songs are old-hat to the extreme, but who could doubt the ability of John Congleton to not only make it acceptable, but also borderline vital? The chorus sounds like it’s in slow motion to a degree, but that is purely because of the typical jagged guitars that sit astride the verses. Oh, and that staccato piano will never get old.

4: ‘One Day He Went Out For Milk And Never Came Home’
Let’s deal with the obvious first and foremost: Fantastic, fantastic title. The second track on the album, it’s one of those rare pAper chAse songs that smash out of the gate straight away. Abusive relationships dominate pretty much all of the early discography, and it doesn’t get much more spiteful than here. ‘So how does it feel to know that this is all you’ll ever be, my darling?’ It’s not difficult picturing the argument. In fact, that entire middle to late part of the song is the pAper chAse at their best. It’s nervous tension, building away, only with some childish piano and unexpected shouts in the distance. Splendid.

3: ‘Ready, Willing, Cain and Able’
This was a tough decision. How could a song this strong finish only 3rd? Well, without stating the obvious of the quality of songs above it, I’m not entirely sure. Again, it starts with a faraway sample repeating the phrase ‘get rid of it’ over and over again. The abusive relationship theme is all over it once more, with ‘choke back the tear my dear, aren’t you a big girl now?‘ the doozy this time round. Horror movie strings abound, but it’s the albums best hook that makes this song special. ‘Heaven for climate, hell is for conversation’ is sang almost joyfully, despite sounding for all the world like the most deranged swing band imaginable. Most bands would sacrifice limbs to write songs this good.

2: ‘Said the Spider to the Fly’
Is there a better example of a deranged nursery rhyme than ‘Said the Spider to the Fly’, the opening track of the album? Obviously not, but you need to start these with sentences and that works here. This could be read quite literally as a love song from a spider to a fly it is just about to devour, but of course metaphors are always kind. Chorus and lyrics aside, the extra bits of dissonance that creep in during the second verse really ram home the fact that the pAper chAse were the most terrifying pop band in history. If this song was played straight, or even just one man and an acoustic guitar, festivals would end with middle-class white folk on each others shoulders holding up flags with their arms aloft singing the chorus. Heck, if this was written by Mumford and Sons it would be the biggest song in the world. Instead, it was written by a band with ideas and more than just a smidgen of creativity. Therefore, it sits on this blog.

The chorus is ace too.

1: ‘Dying With Decent Music’
‘I’d sell out everyone if I could find such peace’. I’m not going to disagree with the man. As someone who has drank shots at the bar with various degrees of depression, the desperation of it all is pretty much explained in that right there. For such a dark album preoccupied with broken abuse, this is the perfect ending. It sounds like defeat, not just resignation but full blown defeat. Despite this, disagreement still lingers. Imagine being on the brink of splitting up a long relationship. Heck, you’re going to split up, it just hasn’t been said. You decide to go to a party to try and recapture something, something lost, something you aren’t really sure existed in the first place. Fast forward to the end of the night, when everyone has left except you and your other. This is a song that sounds like sitting on the floor with your tie undone, drink in hand, balloons around and nothing but utter defeat on the mind. It is what the last moments of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ should have been.

Then it all kicks in, and I don’t know whether to smile or finish my drink.

(‘this feeling, I can’t confine back to a rhyme. Well, maybe I can, if I see you on the other side’  is as good a couplet as I’ve ever heard. Spot the spot on.)

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Posted in: Music, Thursday Thive