#4. The Long Blondes – You Could Have Both (2006)
There are certain musical acts, particularly from the indie spectrum, that it’s actually quite difficult to warm to. Of the elements that comprise the whole – lyrics, image, poise, inflection – there’s an undercurrent hinting at the contrived, something forced, as if too much attention has been lavished upon catching the eye of the music press.
It’s a trap that The Long Blondes have been accused of falling into; songs about sexual jealousy full of art school references, and in Kate Jackson, a front-woman lashed to the über vogue. It’s indeed true that at times (particularly on their second and final album) the template doesn’t work, becomes lost amid the knowing sentiment. But when it does all come together, tracks that emphasise the toil involved in making things tight, their sound is swelled by verve, by passion, by a momentum at turns sassy, at turns sultry.
And so to ‘You Could Have Both’, a song about boy meets girl from a deliciously dark and slanted angle, all of it propelled by fierce instrumental energy and a fine jangly guitar. This is a song that subverts its subject matter (I don’t kid myself about happy endings, I’m too old for that now), facing up to the fact that matters of the heart are predisposed to complexity and atavism with panache, with an endearing form of elegance.
This is also a song that approaches perspective intelligently, counterpointing the intensity of chorus and verse (first-person female narrative) with the spoken break. This is probably the reason why it’s this track and not another that appears in the Festive Fifty; love as suburban. Mundane, even – the interesting things in life (listen to St. Scott Walker, on headphones) weighed down by the humdrum (on the bus; what about us?). Here, even the art school references work: The Apartment just happens to be one of my favourite films, a tender, intricately crafted comedy that parodies the mechanics of why people want to have sex with one another. Name-checking C.C. Baxter, the film’s warm-hearted protagonist, would be gratuitous without context, but when inserted into the subject matter, it never fails to raise a smile.
It’s gone ten here on a Saturday night. Fake champagne has been added to the usual diet of trendy lager and prohibitively expensive single malt, and I’ve been “working” on this post for far too long. Thus the wrap-up; this song triggers a wry, recognition-tinged agreement as well as a compulsion to dance, just to show that whomever just what they’re missing. Technically I could be happy if I could have both, but I’m thrilled that I have just you.
The Long Blondes / You Could Have Both