Throwback Friday #36 Choosing Kryptonite (2003)


Sometimes when a relationship ends, it doesn’t, and round and round you go together in interminable circles. This song was written in a time of circles, resolutions going broken and broken again.

I thought Choosing Kryptonite made for a suitable, if down-beat choice for January 1st – a day when we’re tempted to draw bold new lines and make solemn righteous promises… often bringing about the very conditions under which we’re going to feel worse about the unfinished business in our lives. The good news is this song is a relic – another one of my heart-felt out-pourings written without irony or much sophistication. Those interminable circles didn’t go round and round forever. The good news is you can make resolutions that stick, even if you have to break them a few thousands times on your way to making a change for the better.


choosing kryptonite

1

missing you, can’t believe i’m missing you
after all the things I said i’d never do
but i’m here again and it can’t be true
because there’s just no way your foot fits this shoe
but i’m missing you, can’t believe i’m missing you
it’ll end in tears, we always do

2

trusting you, how can that be right?
after all the grief and the sleepless nights?
but i’m in trouble deep, let the hazard warning light
i’m like superman choosing kryptonite
but i’m trusting you, can’t believe I’m trusting you
you’ll break my heart, you always do

3

touching you, even with my fingers burned
caresses black with soot, hey, you’d think I’d learned
but i’m like a moth and your like the flame
and like icarus this flight will end the same
but i’m touching you, can’t believe i’m touching you
i’m going to die a death, i’m going to fall for you

4

kissing you, you’ve re-tied my tongue
my insides in knots and my reserve undone
I can’t catch my breath, heart beat stationary
with this mouth-to-mouth I think you’re killing me
but i’m kissing you, really kissing you
I don’t care it hurts, I think I want it to

5

loving you makes a fool from me
makes me tweedledum and not tweedledee
I guess i’ll play the clown, supply banana peel
i’ll even laugh at me as these others will
but i’m loving you because I’m in love with you
but play it straight with me, i’ll come straight to you

6

leaving you, well there’s no surprise
you’re like holding snow, you’re like butterflies,
you can’t be kept ‘cause your love won’t keep
because you love to look, but you’re loathed to leap
but I’m leaving you, can’t believe I’m losing you
I came all this way but you’re still you

September 2003


MFT #9 December Will Be Magic Again (1979)


Kate Bush’s December Will Be Magic Again is one of my favourite things. Here’s why.

In physics, the observer effect is the disturbance of an observed system by the act of observation. Put more simply, our own efforts to apprehend something can skew the outcome, rendering it invalid or void. Something similar happens when we try and apprehend Christmas, seeking to embody the season’s ambience through popular music or ‘Christmassy films’.

Most secular Christmas music is an appalling backfire, the way those pre-decorated straight-out-of-the-box plastic Christmas trees are appalling, in how so very wide of the mark they fall of the sensorial experience they’re straining to (re)produce.

Likely I’m just a po-faced old misery guts, but when I hear Slade or Wizzard or Band Aid or Wham or Mariah Carey, I envision a sort of festive rictus, the grinning tinseled skull of experience excarnated of hope. These ubiquitous songs tell me it must be Christmas again, but it’s never the Christmas I want.

Anyway, I find myself increasingly confused by Christmas, not least because I’m an atheist, but an atheist who went to a very nice Church of England school in a largely picturesque village. I find it near impossible to separate my intellectual position on the subject of the nativity from my nostalgia for all those Christmas assemblies, when my teachers did silly, unexpected things, or handed around chocolates in coloured foil, or we sang carols in the lovely old church up on the hill. The First Noel makes me ache. When it catches me unawares, Silent Night can even make me cry. Guilt soon follows, as I’m aggrieved by my own sentimentality, and for appropriating filmic moments of pathos from a culture I otherwise struggle to understand. Meanwhile, hearing I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day makes me die a bit inside, allergised by its artificiality and deficit of mystery, its unwillingness to admit to all the dark green shadows of winter.

Kate Bush’s ethereal December Will Be Magic Again rarely features on any of those well-worn compilations of ‘Christmas hits’ or Spotify playlists. I’ve never once heard it playing over supermarket speakers as an accompaniment to the sound of huge frozen turkeys clanging into trolleys. I’m certain no one sings along to it in pubs – how could they, given the swooping virtuosity of Kate’s vocal performance and the meltingly indistinct shapes of her lyrics?

Always with the music of Kate Bush, there is a final ‘unknowability’ at the heart of her song-writing. We understand her scheme of words well enough, but something remains abstruse and hidden from us lesser mortals, something intimate and surreal. I feel all of it anyway, as December Will Be Magic Again draws up the hairs on my arms in a quick silvery wave. Yes, there are sleigh-bells, that sonic shorthand for Christmas, but a cold, bright darkness is at work in the heart of this strange song, returning me at once to the chill of the old village church of my school days, with its cold stones and candle light. I feel it again, the thrill of seeing my breath, of the pooling of shadows under the pews, and that small dangerous electricity generated by a whole community of people coming together in some ancient rite of magical thinking, a beautiful seance.

I’ve always found the effect of December Will Be Magic Again to be like someone dialling down the thermostat, ferns of ice unfurling to etch the glass of my windows like elaborate William Morris wallpaper, Kate’s voice doing that, as clean and clear as starlight.

The snow, Kate sings, the snow is coming to cover the muck up, and so it does, this song drifting down from somewhere higher-up to efface the worst of those flashing plastic trees and quieten my misgivings.



Throwback Friday #28 Weak Kneed (2003)


It’s a lesser known fact about me that I’m sometimes known to write a song or two when the mood strikes. That mood used to strike much more often, I think because I didn’t second guess myself as much as I do now. I’m no musician after all, so what gives me the temerity to write music and think musically? Good question! Regardless of my innate abilities or otherwise, song-writing is something I’ve done and continue to do, only now it is usually in the service of some bigger, visual ambition.

Back in the early 2000s, my heart was sore and broken, and I wrote a number of songs as a means to move on from one thing or another. They make for quite a collection now. Weak Kneed is one of those songs from that period, a wistful, melancholy little ditty about unrequited love (of course).


Weak kneed

1

If life’s a cabaret and all the world’s a song
then meet the guy with two left feet, whose notes are often wrong
and if life is not a song then the world is but a play
but one in which I’m corpsing or drying or pratfalling
or hissing prompt and stalling and forgetting what to say

But I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees

2

If life’s a circus tent and a carnival of chance
I think I’ll sit this routine out, let the acrobats advance
‘cos you need a winning act for successful vaudeville
and I’m not so great at singing or keeping the plates spinning
or levitating women or topping any bill

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

3

If love’s a magic trick, a clever sleight of hand
my magician’s hat is empty, my best performance panned
‘cos they want a bigger flash, more glitter for their buck
but my repertoire is thinning and my face aches from the grinning
and my hopes I am unpinning from the whims of lady luck

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

4

If love’s the leading role, I’m in the chorus on the right
I’ve been singing just as loudly, I think my face was out of sight
so I don’t know if you saw, I wasn’t on for long
but Shakespeare I was quoting near the spotlight, and emoting
no claim to fame supposing distinction from the throng

but I do know how to cheer, how to roll and break a fall
how to jump through hoops if need be, how not to drop the ball
and I guess I’ll walk a tightrope, I could learn the high trapeze
if I thought you might be watching, like me, weak now at the knees.

April 2003