Leave the Memories Alone?
‘The Con’, Tegan and Sara’s fifth album, was a very important album to me personally, not just simply at the time of its release but for many years afterwards. This should have had given me a hint to how significant a release it was- considering the lasting effect it still managed to have on a man so tediously heteronormative that he seriously refused to like Bret Hart as a child because he wore pink- but I honestly didn’t realise the wider world had similar and even equal affections to me (but never more, never possibly more: nobody could love ‘The Con’ more than me. Nobody!) until I learned that there would be a tenth anniversary celebrated with a collection of covers of each of the album’s 14 tracks by 14 different artists, some newer acts that were directly influenced and even enabled by T&S’s and this album’s success, and some older affiliates (Ryan Adams: who knew? He’s a man that I imagine would consider even me an outrageous fop).
Firstly, this is always a great idea, and always preferable to just lazily re-releasing a classic album with an extra disc of b-sides and demos (damn you, Manic Street Preachers, stop taking my money!!). Two albums on this countdown are by artists first introduced to me through this album (Muna and… another one…)
and it’s by far the best way to exhibit an album’s importance.
Secondly, rather than spending 800 words again moaning about how I think Tegan and Sara aren’t as good as they used to be, I thought that it would be far more interesting and relevant to revisit my original ‘review’ of the album when it, in keeping with my usual punctuality, was No.4 in my 2008 list (and make it 2’100 words). The original piece only captures a small part of the bond I would eventually form with the record, but this is still proof that I was into this album way before anyone on this list. And yet was I invited to contribute? Was I buffalo!!
More after the jump (I’ve always wanted to write that, makes the blog sound so legit)
Lesbian twins! Admit it; you’d love this band even if the songs were shite.
[Fucking hell, what a start: this is probably why I wasn’t invited onto this record. It’s perhaps tantamount to the album’s impact that it could be considered brilliant even by a 23 year old man who would without even questioning it start his appraisal of the record with reference to the two sisters, what, making out?? There’s such a weird accepted perversion that incest isn’t just OK but actually really freakin’ hot when it’s between sisters*, that I could implicitly reference it here without at all worrying that I’d come across as a abhorrent creep. Men are so fucking weird!
Still, at least I was just a dumb young degenerate bashing out nonsense once a year, there were actually even more embarrassing reactions to the album at the time of its release from actual professional journalists. Pitchfork claimed that ‘Tegan and Sara should no longer be mistaken for tampon rock”, which is… aye…? but… wha…? hmm… a compliment? Tampon rock? Is that the helpful term for describing rock music made by people who menstruate? Is Chrissie Hyde still ‘tampon rock’, or would we have to ask her? Further proof that Pitchfork is an utterly absurd magazine that’s only read by absolute idiots**.
Even worse was the Rolling Stone review, which complained about T&S being “Lesbians who never reference their oppression or even their sexuality”. Why would we ever trust they’re even lesbians to begin with?? I mean, Thom Yorke claims to be a heterosexual, but do you know how many songs on the last Radiohead album were about how much he enjoyed inserting his penis into a lady’s vagina?
That’s less than half the album, Thom, trying to hide something???
I may have opened the review by leering over the two women disgustingly, but at least the rest of it was judging the record as being made by two human beings and didn’t assume that them being homosexual means that they should remind us of that fact at every opportunity, like listening to a Tom Waits album and wanting him to always assure us that he’s wearing a hat. Ha! I win, Rolling Stone (which, by the way, isn’t even your name!), I was way more ‘woke’ than you ten years ago!
Oh, what’s this? Oh, I’m sorry: The Rolling Stone reviewer later explains his claim, saying that T&S must talk about being homosexual because: “Tegan and Sara don’t have men to lash out at, put up with or gripe about.”
We’re 14 words in…]
Although they may sound like an act dreamt up by the features editor of Nuts,
[ In case my younger readers are unaware of nuts]
or at best the kind of musical curiosity destined to spend the best part of an hour on late night BBC2 attempting to fend off Louis Theroux’s progressively elevating eyebrows [why can’t I write lines as good as that these days?] as he investigates the stranger side of North American folk music, Tegan and Sara’s fifth album is actually a little-known gem, and a minor pop classic. While it would be asking a lot to expect that the duo could ever completely escaping their USP (at least they cut their hair differently in an attempt to look different, The Proclaimers are just trying to mess with your mind) [‘mess with your mind’?? That’s weird. That’s a weird way of phrasing that. Isn’t it?], their blend of ever-so-slightly twisted pop rock should at least ensure that the inevitable first comment (see above) will be followed by ‘…and their music’s chuffing great and all’.
[Aaaaaaah, so was my pervy opening line actually a subtle commentary on how music journalists so frequently fail to see past an artist’s designated defining feature? My ‘Wahay!’ was not actually a moment of shameful laddishness only barely preferable to Rolling Stones’s offensive patronising, it was actually a satire of the likes of Rolling Stone and their narrow minded appraisals of great art such as ‘The Con’. God, I’m a clever fuck, aren’t I?
The use of ‘chuffing’ I believe suggests that last comment is supposed to be read in a Bolton accent, just so you know. It was not, at that time, a common feature of my own vernacular.
That first paragraph is just two long sentences by the way. I still haven’t mastered proper full stop usage to this day, it’s my one failing as a human being. My one failing!]
What Tegan and Sara (I better state conclusively here, lest there be any confusion later, that no, I have no idea which one’s which) [Let’s face it, I imagine even both Sara and Tegan find it hard to remember which one they are #AddedBantz] do fantastically is write consistently and occasionally beautiful pop songs, and then twist and subvert them ever so carefully until the effect is at the same time one of both familiarity and a very welcome shock of the new, of the conventionally affecting and the downright weird. One way they achieve this is by writing some of the best and most perplexing lyrics of the year, often very simply written but loaded with enough intrigue to keep the listener still fascinated 12 months after its release (it was actually released autumn 2007 in America) [Nice try, Alex: it was released worldwide in 2007, but the singles to promote the album weren’t released until 2008. A bit of a strange release schedule, admittedly: probably because they’re lesbians. Tampon rock bands, aye, what are they like? #Callbacks]whether it be the oblique [???] Are You Tens Years Ago, The Con’s chorus imploring us to ‘Encircle me/ I need to be/ Taken down’ or album highlight Like Oh, Like H’s opening lines telling us ‘When I was eight I was sure I was growing nerves/ Like Steel in my palm/ S.O.S to my mother/ Take the hinges off the door’ possibly putting the track up there with The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks when it comes to great songs about… erm… teen ‘introspection’.
Wow. You were doing so well, Alex, then you just boldly claim that a very powerful and introspective song is actually just about wanking (‘When I was 8’. Is that too young? I honestly have no idea***) based on very little evidence even if you quoted the lyrics correctly!! ‘I was growing pains‘, Alex, it’s a very clever play on words. Let’s hear from either Tegan or Sara (the interviewer wasn’t sure):
“I was a happy kid and there isn’t a sad, sad story to tell. But our parents got divorced when we were five, and I think I had a lot of anxiety when I was kid. I worried that I was sick a lot… So, the first part of the song definitely is about me being a bit of a troubled kid, worried and anxious about things. But a lot of that was inside, like how I imagined myself when I was a little kid, ‘cause I know that a lot of people didn’t see me like that”
No explicit references to prepubescent masturbation, but I was obviously reading between the lines.
I don’t write like this anymore, do I? I don’t attempt to actually talk about the music or anything bourgeoisie like that, and certainly don’t ever claim to know what a song’s about. I had far more confidence back then, and would regularly take swings at proper interpretations of art. I mean, it was a lot more dull, but I still admire my big gallbladder.
And the thing is, just because Tegan or Sara claim they never intended the song to be about masturbation, doesn’t mean it isn’t: any piece of art only exists as art because it’s value exists not in its physical properties like a potato, but in its perception and the enjoyment human beings get from it. If Tegan, Sara and I believe Like Oh Like H about different things, then their opinion carries no more weight than mine. I’ve been over this before in my Hotelier live review, only I used far better examples. But don’t read that, it’s far too long a piece]
Their voices too are also a joy to listen to; their Canadian accents are so thick that you initially presume they’re putting them on (Hop a Plane’s chorus of ‘Arl Oi Warn to ear is zat ure nart moyne’ is a particular delight [Nope. Not apologising. Other people’s accents are funny, accept it]) and they both evidently prefer a good scream to any kind of recognised singing, but the effect is absolutely charming, and adds to that beautiful oddness (not ‘quirkiness’, and most definitely not fucking ‘kookiness’) that make the entire album such a delight.
A ‘delight’! I never use words like that anymore! Probably because I’m worried it’ll make me sound a bit gay.
Age: 22 (Ruth B) + 23 (Muna) + 26 (Shura) + 31 (Mykki Blanco) + 24 (PVRIS) + 43 (Ryan Adams) + 37 (City and Colour) + 28 (Kelly Lee Owens) + 33 (Bleachers) + 27 (Hayley Williams) + 38 (Sarah Bareilles) + 23 (Shamir) + 29 (Grimes) + 30 (CHVRCHES) = 409
Hmmm, seems quite large. I should divide it by something. Lets saaaaaaaaaay… two.
Album Length: 46 minutes
Very Good Songs: 6 (+12)
Brilliant Songs: 4 (+20)
AMAZING Songs: 1 (+10)
% of Album Worthwhile: 78.5714286
Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnyeah, alright, I quite like the idea
Previous Entries: 2016 No.80, 2013 No.26, 2009 Honorable Mention, 2008 No.4
The story of a once precious band to me slowly falling away. I had conidered giving previous entries for each individual contributor but… c’mon!
Meta Critic: 80
Well, that’s what the original album got…
(all proceeds from the record go to the band’s charity, if you didn’t want to buy the record but still fancied being a nice person)
*My (shoot) ex-wife once told me that if you had a twin sister “You’d just do porn, because you’d make so much money”. It was the weirdest thing she ever said to me, and the saddest thing about her removing herself from my life is that I’ll never get to properly question her on it. I honestly spend an extended period baffling over it at least twice a week. She has two sisters, by the way.
**Big thanks to this review for these quotes
***I did some research and, you know what? Pffff, yeah, maybe, why not? Regardless: ten years ago I was very clear in my mind that kids should be masturbating by age eight