What with US politics having descended into what feels like an aborted late 80s Rodney Dangerfield vehicle (he gets no respect, he’s even got the red tie and everything) to distract from the actual mortals scheming behind his Cheeto Benito decrees, I must have gotten to thinking about something that leads-in with a big anti-establishment agitpop-song, but swiftly realigns its sights inward, to study something more rudimentally human, if no less depressing. I’m not sure how much the last 20 years has done to improve the appreciation of the ‘Hallelujah’ dude in his homeland where he was always incongruously overlooked. I dismissed him for a decade after his debut, due to it being a staple of the record collections of students whose taste I didn’t respect, alongside the same slew of CDs that made it look as though they’d signed up for a record club with the same stroke of a pen as their University application. I’m a serial record collection forensic expert at the best of times, but this pastime served as a useful attention-deflection technique when finding myself at parties I didn’t really want to be at.
As astonishingly tolerated post-lecture breakfast-beers insinuated themselves into my timetable, and my guard dropped along with my pants (ironically with the only girl I knew at University who didn’t own, nor had no interest in this record), I softened on some irrational stances, and a 70s AOR appreciation and Led Zeppelin-upbringing eventually saw me accepting ‘Grace’ as my personal saviour, soundtracking my drunkenly hitting the momentarily sobering chill of winter gone midnight, either in rendezvous-with or avoidance of a frustratingly and fluctuatingly welcoming, then disinterested ‘girlfriend’, sexy in our twenties, pretentious young souls in second-hand clothes.
When the inevitable appetite for more of his output came I was presented with the deliciously incoherent double disc of abandoned studio sessions and voyeuristic slices of 4 track experimentation that is ‘Sketches (for My Sweetheart The Drunk)’. The collection enters with the previously referenced Grace-180 ‘The Sky is a Landfill’, before meandering through the sort of odious nouveau soul (‘Everybody Here Wants You’) so validating of the apprehensions that repelled me in the first place, before justifying the selection of Television’s Tom Verlaine as short-lived producer with a procession of more incisive pointers in the new direction Buckley was determined to take. The most edifying insights though come from the album’s second disc, mostly comprised of home recordings made by Buckley while secluded in a flea-ridden Memphis rental which eerily veer into rich explorations and coincidentally darker territories, which unfortunately underscore in legend the tragedy that was shortly to befall him in nearby Wolf River.
Amongst a largely darker second half, there is lucent beauty in the penultimate ‘Jewel Box’ and other territories’ exclusive ‘Gunshot Glitter’ which perhaps go farthest to illustrate without sheen the songwriting quality so evident on ‘Grace’ that will forever remain his trademark. ‘Sketches’ dispenses with the glimmer that made him both initially attractive to the masses and dismissable to the cognoscenti, and places him more in the venerable company of those by whom he was influenced (such as Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser who he shared a brief relationship and collaboration-with) or would go on to pay tribute to or cite the presence-of in their own work, like P.J. Harvey and Thom Yorke, to name but two.
I’m including a long laboured-over re-arranged tracklisting of the remnants available on this collection and some unearthed from elsewhere.
Next week i want to hear from Melissa.
Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.