>My theory on The Beatles runs roughly along these lines: their songs are music’s equivalent of the Bible. In my case, it means that I know all the songs, but never actually listen to them; similarly, I know all about Samson and Delilah, but the Bible-shaped space on my bookshelf is filled by 1000 Pinup Girls.
I don’t own any Beatles albums any more, not even Revolver. Last week I was sent a link to a site where one devotee had ranked every single Beatles song in order of preference. This kind of obsessive behaviour indicates that the author is a man, but I may be wrong.
You, like everyone else, will disagree with his list – Day Tripper is only the 147th best Beatles song? Really? – but anyone who has even a passing interest will get lost in it for hours.
It’s tough to truly assess their brilliance – everyone is told about their genius from an early age. But after browsing through the only the bottom 20-or-so songs, and identifying that half a dozen are near-perfect, it quickly dawns on you just how mind-bogglingly revolutionary they were.
It might seem a trifle unfair to now introduce a New Band, but we’ll do it anyway, because The Handsome Family won’t suffer from any latent comparison with the Beatles. This is chiefly because their creepy, isolated and dark American folky-country sound is pretty much the anti-I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
Bottomless Hole, about a man dropping into – yes – a hole in his garden, is rich, gloomy and pitch-black, and there’s a strange sense of happy liberation in its nihilism. So Much Wine is beautiful and soothing to the nth degree. You could easily miss the distressing lyrics – “But when you fell asleep, with blood on your teeth, I got in my car and drove away” – as you sway dreamily to the tune. In Weightless Again, they manage to form a wonderful, skewed love song that sells the idea of jumping from the Golden Gate bridge as an attractive life-choice.
Infused with death, love and a determinedly crooked view of life, The Handsome Family‘s songs are gorgeously out of step with anyone but themselves.
Brett and Rennie Sparks are husband and wife, and if their songs are any indication of life in the marital home, the conversations over dinner must surely be several fascinating notches up from the usual ‘And what did you do today, dear’ pleasantries. I’d like to listen in. Perhaps I already have.