Monday, February 21, 2005

Bleeding from the waist, or kissing to be chaste

I venture to say that not a whole lot of people have heard the original version of "Babies Falling" by the Wild Stares, and I also would guess that many Magnetic Fields fans will be startled when they hear it. The brutally artificial-sounding drum machine, the tense vocals, the plodding Swans-esque bass lines, and the atonal guitar skronking are miles away from Susan Anway's gentle vocals and Stephin's bubbling synths.

The Wild Stares were active in Boston during the time Merritt lived in Massachusetts, and also, the band's Propeller record label released music by the band
V; whose lead singer was...Susan Anway. For more on the Wild Stares, read this article/interview from Perfect Sound Forever.

A discussion of Merritt's influences is impossible to conduct without mentioning ABBA, whose mastery of catchy pop has profoundly influenced his songwriting and recording methods. Merritt says:

"The first songs I wrote down, at the age of ten or so, were clumsy imitations for my then and now favorite band, ABBA. The lyrics concerned marital problems against a background of European history, and mentioned breakfast tables."

Elements of ABBA imbue many of his songs, but arguably, the track that demonstrates his ABBA-love the most is "Here in My Heart," by the 6ths on Wasps' Nests, which is quite similar to "Take a Chance on Me" in structure, chord progression, and overall sound.

"They knew what they were doing to such an extent that they often lapse over from high emotion into actual psychotic dream states - for me."


Blogger Ernest said...

The early songs that Stephin wrote that mentioned "breakfast tables" might have been inspired by the ABBA song "One Man One Woman" which begins:

No smiles, not a single word at the breakfast table
though I would have liked to begin
so much that I wanna say, but I feel unable
you leave and you slam the door
like you’ve done many times before
and I cry and I feel so helpless
And the "European history" lyrics may have been inspired by "Waterloo," on which Stephin has commented:

incredibly perky pop song about one of the most violent and significant military events in history.... It goes over the top into psychotic delirium of the revelation of what love songs are actually about.

6:21 PM  

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