Monday, June 11, 2007

Jack the Ripper

If you're frightened by the strength of genteel words, how about a plain ol' unpretentious pop song? "Jack the Ripper (in the Moulin Rouge)" may not sound like one, but it's got an up-tempo shuffle thing going, a pleasant vocal, and a hell of a chorus hook. I don't think anything I can say will prepare you for the weedle-wee synth that pops up here and there. Just listen to the interplay between the crunchy, bouncy guitar and the electronic piano. Enjoy it.

Click here for a full-quality flash player , or here for a low-bitrate MP3.

OK, so the lyrics are about murder, paranoia, sexual uncomfortability to the point of violence (Don't touch me, I'm a real live wire!), and the shattering of the illusion of civilization ("Are we dreaming? No we're not, I know because I'm here."). The title character (well, just like Jack the Ripper, not the man himself) is presented with a great deal of sympathy. The failure to specify what was done is effective - a decent horror film doesn't show the villain.

Nevertheless! It's still a great pop song. I'd love to hear it on the radio, even if just once. God, those ersatz-Beatles backing vocals.

(N.B. Besides Seducing Down the Door, this song appeared on the IRS compilation These People Are Nuts! They meant it.)


Jack Feerick said...

Musically, it's a triumph of tones, isn't it? The Beatlesque vox, the opening riff (is that an electric guitar, or a distorted harpsichord?), the floaty electric piano, even that squiggly synth; the tone is plit, almost but not quite in perfect octaves, giving it a free reed quality—an accordion, to wit, for that Parisian ambience.

And the drummer really shines on this one—endlessly inventive fills on the stop-time bits.

The liner notes on SDDT say the record company spiked this one because they thought it sounded too much like the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon." I dunno bout that: but it sounds like something. I can't quite place it, though. Maybe it's just one of those instantly-familiar songs...

Inverarity said...

Now that you mention it... "triumph of tones" is a good way to put it! I wish I had more musical knowledge. (I don't know a lot about music, but I like what I know.) I wouldn't have thought to make the "free reed" observation, but I think I hear what you mean. Thanks for the assist.

I've long read and admired Alan W. Pollack's Notes on the Beatles, which was sort of the Ur-oeuvreblog, even if it was more academic and songcraft-oriented.

Jack the Ripper always sounded very familiar, but it doesn't sound anything like Sunny Afternoon to me.

Where's the Kinks oeuvreblog, anyway?

Jack Feerick said...

Oh, it's coming, I'm sure.

"Oeuvreblog" is a great word, BTW. Now that this phenomenon has a name, old-media attention is sure to follow!