Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’

Fleet Foxes

Another one that narrowly missed our 2008 chart, finishing around 23. It’s a gorgeous song, but that’s not enough, is it? It needs to be a single – not just a single – and this feels like part of an album. If that doesn’t make any sense, stick it on my list of hang-ups.

So, beards in popular music: do they make better harmonies? I’m thinking later Byrds, Fleetwood Mac (ok, maybe not Stevie and Christine, but who knows what Lindsey Buckingham and John McVie were trying to hide?), The Beach Boys in transcendental mode, erm, ZZ Top? Well, it has the doings of a theory. Fleet Foxes’ debut – an album of the year in all the likely places – is glazed in harmony, and nowhere is the melding of hirsute voice more lovely than on ‘White Winter Hymnal’, with its mercury lyrics (“scarves of red tied ‘round their throats/to keep their little heads/from fallin’ in the snow,” anyone?) and rising/falling chords.

It’s a soft hit with Junior who answers my “Do you like it?”s with “Stop talking, Daddy, I’m trying to listen”. I shut my trap and the album wanders on, with Junior recognising other tracks and pointing out I play them at home. She’s right – it’s been one of my favourites too. I’d like to see these bears perform live but I understand you need to be well over six foot to catch a glimpse of them, sitting down strumming their guitars. I’m not that tall yet.

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[4] Haircut 100, ‘Love Plus One’

When people talk about “perfect pop” they usually mean clever-clever, arch stuff that doesn’t appeal to The Kids. Like most of my favourite records. ‘Love Plus One’ was a huge hit, not too clever but with a stylish conceit, and is pristine perfect pop in practically every way.

They were clearly a bunch of talented lads, possibly backed up by a little too much jazz education, and for a year had the punters eating out of their hands. Four singles, four Top Ten hits – this, ‘Favourite Shirts’, ‘Fantastic Day’ and ‘Nobody’s Fool’ (No.21 on this chart, made-up-fact fans) – and *puff* they were gone. Well, not so much “puff” as, “Here, Mr Heyward, have this large sum of money to embark on a pleasant but hardly George Michael-troubling solo career”. Pity.

I won a Haircut 100 poster at Great Yarmouth Fair – I think I managed to shoot a teddy bear or something – but only three of the band were on it. Portentous, I’m sure. Just a minute ago I did a Google search for their names and found that the band have reformed, or are at least thinking of it, Heyward reckoning the old “magic” would still be there…

Junior will watch with interest, anyway. She was swept off her grubby feet by this one, throwing shapes, even singing along with the “ai, ai, ai, ai”s. Maybe her favourite since ZZ Top. What an odd demographic she inhabits.

[19] The Cult, ‘Love Removal Machine’

Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy BETRAYED the Goths with the fantastically derivative yet ace Electric.

Junior rejoices in the power of the ‘Start Me Up’ riff. Propped up by a couple of cushions, she rocks out, claps her hands, grins and shakes her stuff. Loud guitars are a new thing for her but, as she indicated with ZZ Top, she’s ready to embrace the rawk.

The single sleeve claims that ‘Love Removal Machine’ will make you “boogie ‘til you blow chunks”.

The mind boggles.

ZZ Top, ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’’

Strictly, we don’t own any ZZ Top records, but we appreciate them for the little things – the trend-defying boogie-woogie, the well-worn irony of Frank Beard’s name, the album titles that Bobby Gillespie would’ve dearly loved to have thought of first, that swinging pointy gesture they do and the Smash Hits interview in which Billy claimed that a dead vulture stank like Dusty’s boots.

However, when this song was requested, I remembered that I had it on The Hits Tape which still nestles in the Various section of the cassette library I’ve stashed under Junior’s changing table. The flat’s just not big enough to store all my records successfully. Anyway, The Hits Tape, eh? The ill-fated Now competitor. They shared a common format, you may recall: a pop side, a dance/soul/hip-hop side, a rock side and, well, a crap side. ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’’ kicks off the rock side of this one in fine style, a momentum sustained by Van Halen’s ‘Jump’.

Junior is a hitherto unsuspected ZZ Top fan. She boogie-woogies on the Winnie the Pooh mat with all her strength, stamping on the Tigger squeaker in time to the riffs. The arm waves and smiles are de rigueur. The traditional first Christmas panda is picked up at one stage for a spin around the dancefloor, and so immersed is Junior in the rhythm, she doesn’t even try to eat it. Otherwise, a girl of eclectic tastes.