#2 “Some Other Suckers Parade” by Del Amitri (1997)
It all started with seeing a video on vh1 for “Roll to Me”, the one where the lead singer’s head is superimposed on a baby’s body and being pushed around in a stroller. Such a strange image but the song has a mood-altering effect of the non-dangerous variety. It has an oldies charm with some modern aggressiveness. **** (side note below)
I headed out to buy the album. Turns out the song was not new and the cd that had the song wasn’t at this store. They did have their new cd (the subject of this writeup) so I bought it and immediately fell in love with it.
When I first listened to albums, I’d skip through and find 3 or 4 songs that grabbed me. I’d wear those few songs out and eventually get to the rest of the record 3 songs at a time (I still do this). The first song I latched onto was “Life Is Full.”
It had a similar fun, infectious energy to “Roll To Me.” Because I listened to this one first, it colored my perception of the rest of the record. Well, that and the fact that their melodies are beautiful and the songs usually have a fun, rocking groove. Lyrics weren’t too important to me. It wasn’t too long before I started to pick up on the themes Justin Currie and Iain Harvie (the band’s only constant members and chief songwriters) were exploring. There is not much in the way of joy or happiness in their writing. In fact, “Life Is Full” is quite sad. When I was just rocking out to the song, I heard some of the lyrics, and it went like this in my mind-
Yeah, Life is full - Yeah, Life is full
when love comes you don’t have no room cause life is full
Reading that now, the message is still clear to me but at the time, I took this as “ain’t life wonderful?! you have so much love and happiness in your life that when more comes knocking on your door you can’t accept it cause things are so great.”
That’s a pretty simple take on the message but I was only 18 with as much life experience as your average 18 year old.
Here are the actual lyrics
yeah life is full of easy choices, life is full of simple rules
but when love comes you don’t have no room cause life is full
throw in this verse lyric for good measure-
and you do all the things that anybody does to show they are alive
This guy is not happy at all. Just try to explain that to the band though. They’re all bouncy and light.
Another 15 years have gone by and I’ve got a much better handle on the themes that Del Amitri were singing about. I hope that there’s not too much autobiographical about their writing, although I don’t think the songs would be so effective if the writers didn’t live what they were writing at least a little bit. To be fair, there’s not much in the way of happy lyrics that make for lasting, great songs. An example of a good one would be, “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder. Most songs I love are a little sad. I just happen to think that, if the Grammy’s were to award a “Haunting Like Ben Folds ‘Brick’ Achievement Award,” the writers in Del Amitri would be perennially nominated.
Musically, “Some Other Suckers Parade” has a heavy “rock band in a bar” vibe with a touch of country. The sounds are really aggressive. Drums are crispy and vocals are pretty dry and in your face. I’ve since read an interview with one of the members who said the method of recording was to capture their live sound. Very few overdubs were done (aside from vocal doubles and harmonies). They went for live takes and you can tell. The band is playing with an energy that makes me jealous! You have to be really tight to get that good loose sound.
After this record, they sort of backed off the American market. They released a greatest hits compilation and one more record in Europe, I believe. Justin Currie has released 2 solo records that Amy and I have enjoyed a bit. I’d describe them as Del Amitri without the life affirming, joyful lyrics. But he’s got a great voice and is a great storyteller.
Some other sad great songs from this record -
Through All That Nothing (this one’s actually pretty sweet)
****Side note- the mix for “Roll to Me” is amazing to me for it’s gutsiness. There is very little drum sound on the right side of the mix (except for some slight reverb or room). Drums are on the left and the vocals are all on the right. The cool melodic 12-string is also pretty isolated on the right speaker. I won’t give you the breakdown on all the other instruments’ positions in the stereo field but it’s an extreme presentation, at least for the 90’s. I didn’t realize this until a couple years of playing that song on repeat. I just never noticed. All I cared about was how awesome the song is.