Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sad Women and Songs (Up with the '90s Once More!)

I don't know what it is with women, the art of melancholy and me. No cinematic thrill moves me quite like a melodrama starring an actress in the throes of despair (see Why I Love the '90s, Part 2).

In music, too, I love my girls good and miserable. There's something about a forlorn female voice rocking me to tears over sobering musical accompaniment that just kills me. It's another reason why I loved the '90s: It was the era of female singers, many of them fronting bands, who could cut a direct path right to my soul with a frown and a single simple couplet or less.

""Cause everybody knows that good news always sleeps till noon," Margo Timmins sang on "Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning," from The Caution Horses, the 1990 album by Cowboy Junkies, another reason why we should all hail Canada.

"I had bad dreams, so bad I threw my pillow away," Tanya Donelly cooed on "Angel," the second track on 1993's shining Star, while she and her bandmates in Belly pummeled us with a wave of guitar mutilation. (Donelly once released a solo album called Lovesongs for Underdogs, which is exactly what I'm talking about.)

Then there was Portishead, Mazzy Star, Everything But the Girl and the Sundays. Ah yes, the Sundays -- the only thing I ever liked involving that particularly dreadful day of the week. I fell in love with "Skin & Bones" and "Here's Where the Story Ends" while checking out customers at Spec's Music and Video in Gainesville, Florida, as the Reading (England) band's 1990 debut album Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic played on repeat in the background. Few songs by little-known bands ever incited so much customer interest back in that day, though I was disappointed that so many of them mistook the Sundays for Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, another great band featuring another female singer who lingered on the dark side but was nonetheless in another league of its own.

Only two more Sundays albums followed -- 1992's Blind and 1997's Static and Silence -- both of which offered some of the most beautiful and durable music of the decade, even if pretty much nobody talks about the Sundays today.

I hope that I might live to see a '90s nostalgia tour featuring all the female-fronted bands I used to love in that decade -- a sort of modern-day Lilith Fair, starring Cowboy Junkies, the Sundays, Belly, Mazzy Star, Portishead and Everything But the Girl -- together for one last sad hurrah.

The Sundays "Cry"

Portishead "All Mine"

Everything But the Girl "Low Tide of the Night"

The Jesus and Mary Chain featuring Hope Sandoval (from Mazzy Star) "Sometimes Always"

Belly "Angel"

Cowboy Junkies "Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning"

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