[12] Maria Usbeck ‘Moai Y Yo’

maria-usbeck-2016

I’m only fluent in Spanish when I’m in Portugal, so Maria Usbeck’s lovely album Amparo passes me by, at least in meaning, but you know, I’ve always been hopeless with lyrics. I still haven’t nailed ‘Come On Eileen’ and I’ve played it 4,772 times since it blew my tiny mind on Top Of The Pops in the early summer of 1982. Those BBC4 repeats of the last few weeks have been a Proustian madeleine in so many ways, a synaptic assault of conflicting memories that have brought back seething recollections of my mum drawing the curtains while I was trying to record ‘Eye Of The Tiger’, and sadder ones of boarding school conjured by Chicago’s ‘Hard To Say I’m Sorry’. But let’s stick to the point.

‘Moai Y Yo’ flutters gorgeously, dreaming itself alive. Junior 3 says, “I don’t like it at all,’ but J2 has time for it, picking out the “smooth voice, nice tune”. In stark contrast, Junior herself is throwing a strop about tidying up, which doesn’t fit the mood in the slightest.

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[6] The Carpenters, ‘Goodbye To Love’

The Carpenters

The Guilty Pleasures movement is a flawed model; it requires you to be ashamed to like pop music, to sneer at any artist who favours melody over image or ludicrous image over workaday melody, to disparage anything that doesn’t satisfy the consensus of stifled peers. It’s no pleasure, it’s the tiniest loosening of your credibility belt. To take only furtive enjoyment from the music of ELO, Toto, Hot Chocolate, Wham!, Dolly Parton, Chicago, New Radicals, 10cc, even Take That – purveyors of open, carefree pop or heart-on-sleeve romantic rock patronised by GP playlists and compilations – is to find no joy at all. It only belittles. Hate all that stuff by all means, turn your nose up at Girls Aloud, but for pity’s sake don’t slope off home and play it behind closed doors. Love what you love, abhor what you abhor. Send an SAE for more sermons.

The Carpenters are the perfect candidate for backhanded veneration, with their hook-laden songs, smooth arrangements, celebrations of love, that old brother-sister closeness and cutesy presentation. That’s why I mentioned it. Take them as a novelty and you’re ignoring the power of glorious tunes like ‘Goodbye To Love’ which sounds like the 70s in miniature. Well, there’s no punk here, granted, but the soaring fuzz guitar solo against massed voices certainly points rock in one direction – to Glee, probably; to the elevation of the power ballad to pop-rock’s purest art form. Who’s arguing?

Junior? No, not arguing, even though she thinks that fuzzy solo sounds like a trumpet. She adds her “ahhh” to the heavenly chorus and is intrigued by the possibility of a family band, asking two-year-old sister, “Would you like us to make records together?” “No.”