Do you know what the best thing about Lou Reed‘s Transformer is? No, not Walk On The Wild Side. Nor that Mick Ronson and David Bowie’s mucky fingerprints are all over it like a cheap, sleazy suit. Not even that the backing vocalists were called The Thunderthighs.
The best thing about Transformer is the first ten seconds of Vicious, the first track, up to the point where the guitar squeals for the first time, just after Lou has drawled his first languidly wired lyric.
It’s possibly the most direct, hit-the-ground-running start to any album, piercing into your mind like a diamond knitting needle. Everything you need to know about Transformer‘s wide-eyed and paranoid brilliance is in those first ten seconds.
If the rest of the album was full of clunkers (and duff songs like Make Up try hard enough), the wonderful statement of intent that is Vicious would still make the album a dazzling classic. That some of the most dreamily gorgeous songs ever written – try to listen to Perfect Day or Satellite Of Love without welling up -accompany it make the album a pristine moment of joy, crystallised forever.
But if it had only had that one opener, it’d still be beautiful. That’s why hearing a new band with only the one good song in their armoury is still reason for celebration. Compilation CDs are full of bands who’ve had one really good song and then never quite managed to best it. Hit-and-miss merchants like Lou Reed should give prospective bands encouragement. He also made Metal Machine Music, remember.
Today’s New Band, The Paraffins, have a couple of good songs, so they’re already ahead of the pack. They’re from a small village in Scotland (with a surprisingly large Wikipedia entry) and create songs that seem to have been scratched together with scraps of this and that, which then suddenly take on a life of their own and become much more than the sum of their parts.
Cardboard Cutout, after a few minutes of increasingly clever polyrythmic staggering, suddenly pops its own bubble and splurges with happiness; allowing itself a few final seconds of unhindered noise.
Guest Hausis another slowly building, give-and-take songs that splits from itself into a house-like keyboard riff-driven songs, albeit one played on a melodica. Mobile phone interference completes its electronically haunted feel.
Something Good bounds along in the manner of an excited puppy, at love with everything and everyone at once. It might even hump your leg if you stand too close.
The Paraffins surprised me. Most bands with their resolutely DIY ethic try hard and end up sounding eager, but often end up falling short because the tunes are missing. The Paraffins have them and know how to use them too. A cut-price ‘n’ classy way to end the week – listen here!