Monday, November 20, 2006

Songs To Learn And Sing #20

Sharing his thoughts on the song that everyone should know about today, Lord Bargain:

Geneva - Tranquillizer

It was a Thursday night in 1997 and I was hovering around the studio of W963, University Radio Warwick. My show started at 10pm and so I was enjoying the company of my two friends Reverend Bargain and the Speaker of the House of Bargain whose excellent School Gates, No Karate show broadcast immediately before mine.

In between a couple of rounds of their daft-yet-genius They Ain’t Green game, I caught the opening chords of a record I hadn’t heard before. It happens rarely, but sometimes I hear a piece of music and simply stop what I am doing. I have to listen. The track in question was the new single from Geneva, a band I wasn’t previously familiar with. Once I had determined what it was, I asked them to leave the CD out for me and I played it later that night on my own show.

From that moment on, Tranquillizer became one of my all-time favourite records. Almost ten years later that still remains the case. I do also love the Further album from which it came (you may have heard the other singles Best Regrets or Into The Blue) but this for me is the absolute stand-out track. It was actually voted NME’s Single of the Year in 1997.

It did mildly trouble the top 40, although you would be forgiven for not remembering it. Geneva themselves never really lived up to their early promise. I remember seeing them at the Manchester Students Union in 1999 on the release of their second album which was pretty disappointing. I felt for them - there were only about 50 people at the gig and you could tell that it was the end of them. They energetically performed a fair chunk of Further that night though, and so for someone who loved them it was a pretty satisfying evening.

What is it about Tranquillizer that I love so much? It’s difficult to say, really. If ever a song can soar, this one must be it. The opening guitar riff/introduction immediately grabs your attention, and then Andy Montgomery‘s beautiful if androgynous voice takes over. It fits the perfect model of a song for me - a great pop melody but somehow sad and melancholic at the same time. It’s a perfect length (three and a half minutes) which means it leaves you gasping for more.

The thing about it I love the most are the lyrics. To this day, I have no idea what they mean, but they seem to fit so perfectly. For example "eye liner up, you knock me down" and "is this what checkmate means?" she said, lighting up again, "yes, I like the stillness".

Eh? And: "Until it all seemed pointless, we lifted up a mattress from underneath the window seat." Not sure what that’s all about. Anyway, ignoring that, the line "every step, another step towards half-heartedness" is brilliant as is the hook of the record is a line which I adore in its simplicity. "Let us be happy while we’re still young." You can’t say fairer than that.


Del said...

Good call, LB. Just dug out my single copy from my CD archive! I still think I prefer 'No One Speaks', but that's a minor quibble. I saw them live supporting the Bluetones and they blew them off the stage (pun intended). Why did I never get the album? Ah, the days of being a skint schoolboy...

Anonymous said...

Hey found your blog by accident,

I was looking for the lyrics for tranquilizer. I was chuffed to see someone else rated the song. I bought it in 97 as well. You should really give the “weather underground” album a try. “if you have to go” is one of my all time favourite tracks (top 5). They are one of the most underrated bands.

I’ve got lots more tracks you might like (that’s if you’ve not heard them already, in which case ignore my blah)

“Ghosts of American astronauts” the mekons. 1987.

“Do you realize”? Flaming Lips.

“Cant explain” Longview. (the Ulrich von schauss mix, essential)

“I’ll believe in anything” Wolf Parade.

“Nineteen” Forward Russia. This is my track of the moment, 11 out of 10.

I would be interested to know what you think.

Cheers mate.

M said...

Tranquillizer is indeed a precious, precious song. I don't even remember how exactly I discovered Geneva back in high school, but this track has a very special place with me.

The guitar lines during the chorus - accompanying "until it all seemed pointless" - are gorgeous.

On this note, does anyone actually have a copy of "At The Core", the b-side song to the "Into the Blue" single? I've been trying to track this song down for the longest time.