Song of the day – 331: Scritti Politti
I have no guilty pleasures.
If I had any guilty pleasures, the debut Scritti Politti album Songs To Remember (1982) would be one. There was a moment, for several years after it was released, when it was impossible to walk into a charity store without being confronted with myriad vinyl copies all retailing for 99p, tops. So I would buy it, listen to it a couple of times, start guiltily, give it away to a friend or charity store: then, two months later, start the whole process again. It fascinated me, like 80s MTV. I knew it was wrong: it played all the wrong notes on all the wrong instruments with the wrong intonations and phrasing: the falsetto melodies and mock gospel backing singers were entirely alien to this Blurt/Birthday Party-loving boy. The rapping is a disgrace. I knew it was wrong. I couldn’t help but return to it, though. It was about the only time I fell for the sham New Pop Dream of Paul Morley … or maybe didn’t? Or maybe it wasn’t. Oh, whatever. This album made me feel so conflicted, in only a way the Associates have managed since.
When this song first showed up on the NME tape cassette collection C81, it seemed like just about the most perfect pop song yet created. Context. Context! CONTEXT! It ruined Rough Trade for future generations, mind. And it was a vastly superior version to the one that eventually hit the heady heights of #64 in the UK Top 100.
Strange this should be considered such a guilty pleasure, even now: of course, the early days of Scritti Politti, pre-corporate dollar, were marvellous and inspiring, as even a cursory listen to any of the songs from the 2005 collection Early proves. Though their fans would vehemently deny it otherwise, Green Gartside swapped all this imagination and mischief for costly production values, starting right here with Songs To Remember.
I’m reminded of all this, because there’s a new compilation out (their first?), Absolute. Sleeve notes by that man Simon Reynolds. No, I won’t be listening in. Green totally lost me after this one album. No, I won’t. I refuse to. I really do not like slap bass. I really do not like bouffant haircuts and flowery shirts. I really do not want to return to MTV, circa 1986. Of course, if anyone wants to send me a copy … um … I would be interested. No! NO, I WOULD NOT BE!
(I was going to put ‘Asylums In Jerusalem’ as the featured song, but then I gave myself a fierce slap round my head and woke up.)