The Cranes always had that little girl lost in the woods voice from their British waif / Goth wannabe singer Alison Shaw, and it really worked from the get go (her brother was in the band, too, but who cares - he was a dude, and nobody pays to see the guys in a female fronted band). Had she walked into the orange walled Listening Booth that I worked in post high school, she would have surely been a "dead girl," and despite the descriptions listed above, at 19/20, she was the hopeful dream woman. At 39/40, she would just try my patience way too much. But at the time, she was my Kim Gordon, my Bjork, my Kat from Babes in Toyland, or any other indie princess that could be thrust out there.
As for the Cranes, sure, the early stuff (Self non Self) was very poorly produced, and while some bands can sound over-produced, let's be honest: If you're going to record an album, it has to sound like it wasn't done in a wind tunnel or a closet (no matter how much John Peel thought you were the bomb). Sound needs room to breathe and come alive. However, for their first REAL single, a term I use as in the line of demarcation for where I picked up with the Cranes, I have to say that "Tomorrow's Tears" off of Wings of Joy was fantastic. The review in the NME / Melody Maker said kill for a copy, so I went out and got the disc, and yeah... I was hooked, so hooked that I made a pair of friends go to see them in London. It was a great show, but unfortunately, that was the same night that Nirvana played in London, and I was never forgiven. I'm sure that I deserved not to be forgiven, but I had seen Nirvana (and it was good), and my friends didn't (nyah nyah nyah!!!). For the life of me, even looking back on hearing that one song I really liked, it wasn't live music or at least music to spend time with in a live paying venue. It was mopey bedroom music or alterna boy love music or whatever it was, but it wasn't a live show to be reckoned with (the same can be said of Dead Can Dance when I saw them a few years later).
The disc itself didn't have much shelf life. I still have songs from it, but it's not something that I listen to all the time. Recently, I've been listening to their next proper disc Forever, which is really good, and it's a nice touch when I'm working on stuff for school on my computer and trying to drift into solace. I can't say that I'll be loading it into my mp3 player for the car since that DEFINITELY won't happen, but yeah... it's been getting some rotation, which has been making me want to go back and get the entire disc of Loved.
In looking at the aforementioned Forever, there was "Everywhere," "Cloudless," "Jewel," and "Adrift," and they were big and beautiful and dark and eerie and driven and sweeping with that aforementioned sense of little girl lost in the world at its ultimate perfection and the simple piano of "Tomorrow's Tears" sounded so simple and unrealized into what the band could be if they ever got out of Southampton (if it's the last thing they ever do), and thisdisc, Forever, was the moment of all things great and possible, and there was nowhere else for them to go.
But then there was "Paris and Rome."
And the sound was so hauntingly wonderful and sweeping into indie rock's "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" as she sang into a kicked in purpose with its totality."Shining Road" was good too, but it wasn't as good, and frankly, it's been so long since I listened to the rest of the disc and thought anything more of it other than the fact that the cover is actually a Degas painting (at 23, who knew?).
Does it matter what she was singing? Like Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, there was a sense that she could be making up sounds and still making beautiful music. Sure, there were the points where it was clear and real what was being said by Liz (I suddenly have a hankering for This Mortal Coil's version of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" at this very instance: Did I dream you dreamed about me...), but did it really matter? Who cares what a "sugar hiccup" is? It was just a moment in time to drift back and remember and feel so 1980s / 1990s - even if one looks at her now in that video for "Song to the Siren" and thinks... that's a bad haircut - even for that time.
Does it matter that "Paris and Rome" is lyrically far less than the great American male poet Ezra Pound's "River Merchant's Wife," which is one of the most incredible poems ever?
For in Pound, there is a sense of that realization of love and forever that comes with the lines:
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
But for the Cranes, there is simply a sense of hopeful yearning... a remembering of all things that were good. Both lovers are separated from their loved ones. Both have a desire for the destination and a hope that they will get to it.
And there is hope... if nothing else there is a sense of purpose and promise.
So we go back to Annie, and we sense the feelings of Alison Shaw as we hear:
Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!
When I'm stuck a day
I just stick out my chin
The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
Is it really so different for mid 1990s quasi goth / alternative bliss / dream pop other than the lyrics, which know that there is nobody coming back? Couldn't Pound have planted a sense of doom for his narrator with a twist that her lover was never going to come back to her (killed in battle, abducted by aliens, tempted by a woman on the other side of the river)? Sure, Annie was going to end up with a home and Daddy Warbucks (this is Broadway), but might that have not happened at all? Isn't there a plot twist that could make it NOT SO?
And what will happen to me, to you, to any of us when this day ends?
Do we keep our hopes up high? Do we subscribe to the painful reality of all things that could happen and confront the brutal truths of the Stockdale Paradox and just say to ourselves that nothing good is ever guaranteed to happen, so why not assume the worst and it can only get better while we remain optimistic to our own powers of immediate control. But does that mean that we should accept our lonely, miserible existential void and live as if nothing is to happen, for who knows? That may be the truth... or maybe not.
So how do we find a new meaning beyond the lyrics and hope for a better tomorrow in spite of all things? If we can't count on the lyrics of our songs to do it for us, can we just ascribe them hope and drift into the things that we want to hear?
In Paris and in Rome
And in places far from home
From the mountains to the sea
To wherever the road may lead
I wonder where you'll go
Will the sun shine as you go?
There's all the World, you know
Just beyond the things we know
Don't be lonely now
If you can try to be brave
Maybe the sun will come back
To wash your tears away