McCarthy – ‘The Enraged Will Inherit The Earth’
I’m not entirely sure why I ended up choosing this. I’m not even sure it’s my favourite McCarthy album, but it seemed to mystically percolate its way to the surface whenever I thought about what to bring his evening, so I decided to just stick with it.
McCarthy were one of the C86 era bands. I think they’re interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, they sounded great. They jangle, but their sound, at least in the memory, has a complexity and density beyond most of their contemporaries, even on their early records where they were playing short songs in enough of a flurry that they almost tripped themselves up. Malcolm Eden’s voice isn’t quite substantial enough to carry the songs, and it’s hard to get a grip of at first, but there’s something in its blandness that makes it a perfect fit for the faceless authority figures he speaks for.
They’re principally remembered for their politics, which were always described as “Marxist”. However there’s real nuance in their lyrics which are usually delivered as half-dialogue – in this way McCarthy are the older, politicised sibling to The Wedding Present’s soppy lovelorn teenager – and frequently move through several positions and persuasions before arguing themselves around to the opposite of their starting point. As much as they espoused a particular ideology, they consistently struck out against hypocrisy of any stripe. See the single ‘Keep An Open Mind Or Else’, where the narrator begins ‘With my last breath i’ll fight for your right to disagree’ and ends quite differently. It’s clear that they were aware of the problems and worried away at the contradictions in their politics. You can’t help wondering where their current contemporaries are.
It’s easy to mock them as over-earnest, leftist librarians, but in hindsight, they had a more clearly thought through world-view than I’ve ever managed, and I envy them that. Their certainty used to scare me a little when I was a teenager, but then many of my favourite records started out being placed on a high shelf because I was too nervous to take them on.
McCarthy’s other claim to fame is that Laetitia Sadier left Paris to come here and join Tim Gane, her boyfriend and the band’s guitarist. She sings on this, their second album, and also their third and last record and when McCarthy split up, the two formed Stereolab together.
This album is not as immediate as their first, and not as accessible as their last, but I think it might be the best all-rounder.
Iron and Wine – ‘Walking Far From Home’
I brought this because it’s weird. Like Sam Beam singing an old Iron and Wine melody whilst a four year-old tries out the settings on a Bontempi organ in the background. In a good way.
Spotify link: Iron & Wine – Walking Far From Home
Tom (sort of) listened: Jangle pop is really hard for me to ‘get’ on an initial listen, even without the added encumbrance of a simultaneous chin wag and, therefore, I left the meeting feeling that I wanted to hear the record again before pronouncing on it. I was reminded of some of the Flying Nun records of the 1980s, especially the Bats (who made one of my favourite LPs in The Fear of God…a record, coincidentally, that I dismissed as ‘rubbish’ -technical terminology- the first time I heard it). I certainly didn’t think Rob’s selection was rubbish, far from it, but it wasn’t immediate either and I certainly need to spend more time on it before its (initially) homogeneous template begins to reveal its undoubted subtleties. Unfortunately, Spotify failed me in my hour of need!
Nick listened: I must confess I found it very difficult to take anything away from McCarthy – I’m not the biggest jangle pop fan anyway and find the aesthetic very hard to differentiate the politics of small differences from. Add in the fact that Rob identified its lyrical themes as its USP, the fact that I tend not to notice lyrics, and the fact that we merrily talked all over it, and I have to confess to remembering very little about it. A lesson in the kinds of things that may or may not work well at Devon Record Club, perhaps? Given the fact that we’re all, and me particularly, gobby opinionated sods.