Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grandfather's House

Like "Cordoba," Wrong Way Up outtake and One Word b-side Grandfather's House uses lyrics taken verbatim from Spanish in Three Months, a textbook from the Hugo language series. Like Cordoba, "Grandfather's House" seems to tell a story of crime - this time, the story of a white-collar criminal from a good family. It's as detail-oriented as Cordoba, recounting family activities, dinners, flights and scenery. It conjures up a very intriguing story for me: the man, whose grandfather was a magistrate who oversaw the construction of the city's courthouse, embezzled money from his employer (the city?) to relieve his financial woes. I don't know what Cale and Eno saw in the text, but that's my reading. As with Cordoba, many gradations of meaning can be read into this small patch of found text.

Unlike Cordoba, though, it lacks a convincing musical development. It seems as if they couldn't figure out the right way to approach the song, so they just threw their favorite techniques and noises at it: stop-start construction, tinkling synth, electric piano, ethereal guitar, bass, a background drone. The vocal melody steals liberally from
Music for a New Society's "Broken Bird," but the performance recalls Last Day on Earth's "Broken Hearts" - unctuous, rich, with an uncomfortable feeling of insecurity (or insincerity?). The song's one transcendent moment: the wordless Eno/Cale duet with viola accompaniment on the middle eight.

Since this track wasn't included on the US release of Wrong Way Up, and since the CDEP is long out of print, I'll post an MP3. It didn't deserve a spot on the album, but it's worth hearing. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Jack Feerick said...

Lovely autumnal feel to this. It’s a beautiful song, and one I find very moving. The story it tells in my head is one of a man from a privileged background (that lovely detail—“Dinner wasn’t served until nine”—and the old axiom that the wealthier you are, the later you eat) who loses his inherited wealth to bad investments or bad luck, and tries to keep the truth from his family, whom he adores (“I played with my children all afternoon “). He sells his luxury goods, but in the end cannot support his family in the manner to which they’re accustomed, and so turns to crime.

What’s remarkable about “Grandfather’s House” (and to a lesser extent “Cordoba”) is how, through use of language that is by design emotionally-neutral, it manages to elicit such sympathy.