Tuesday, 8 November 2011


I first heard the song "1926" on Thalia Zedek's solo album "Been There and Gone".

 It's not a particularly immediate album, but it is a grower, it has enough to bring you back after a first listen to progressively get its hooks under your skin. Zedek herself is an interesting character, in a couple of alright noise bands in the 80s, Uzi and Live Skull, before finding a moderate degree of commercial success with the pretty dull Come, though of course in the post-Nirvana corporate feeding-frenzy everyone got a record deal and a shot at one or two major productions (hey, even Steel Pole Bathtub and Clawhammer got signed). In fact it was the track "1926"that kept me coming back to the record and rapidly became one of my favourite songs; typically for me it was the lyrics that intrigued me, that moved  me, they are a strange combination of the elliptical and direct, the small scale and daily and the wildly imagistic and it was hard not to read them as either a song about addiction or unrequited love, and for a while I assumed those were the themes, given that Zedek is a gay ex-Heroin addict.

 My devotion to the track is such that I'll transcribe the lyrics below:

I  saw you older
It looked like death had been at your face.
Another cigarrette, almost done
When the morning first breaks
Too many  people,  too many people
 Know your first name
I'm  just  one, and  after a while
I can't  bring myself to say it.
Be sure to notice always what you're eating
New York nights, 1926, and I  looked  different
You starve your telephone
Now your servants can't brng you messages
The open fields where  people  call up  to  no reply
You can't help it
 If you get out of bed 
You might meet a spy
We used to be lovers a long time ago
Your god hates me
 He  can't  feel my flesh
He  leaves me panting  like a dog at the edge of your bed.

There's a significant move in line six from a description of what is perhaps a friend or lover returning to find an addicted or paranoid or declining ex to a sudden widening out both in terms of the  song's  temporal/social scope and in its weird metaphysical/cosmic shift, culminating in the  spectacular line (which I'll repeat for my own edification as much as yours)

Your god hates me, he can't feel my  flesh/ he leaves  me panting like a dog at the edge of your bed.

Zedek's version of the song is the strung-out-blues and violin that seems to be the default setting for all middle-aged ex-Junkie 80s noiseniks, and this, along with the carnal/ferral/abased/melancholy tropes made me assume that it was just an  uncharacteristically brilliant piece of writing on Zedek's part, until, that is, I discovered it was actually a cover and that the original, by  Boston  post-punk band V; is  rather different and  considerably better. The  rest of V;'s work is pretty much unknown to me at this point but if there are a few genuinely neglected great songs around then this is one of them.


Anonymous said...

The rest of V;'s material is available on Susan Anway's MySpace page or on YouTube under SuperBongo50.

Lauren said...

Damn. I thought this song was simply Zedek being brilliant, but it's nice to know it's a cover. I don't know which version I like more.