“I play it all night long / It makes me want to kill myself”*

I’ve just about reached Cinerama in this project, which has created some difficulties. I predicted a specific trouble going in – I own both the initial singles collection, This Is Cinerama, and the first studio album, Va Va Voom, and there is some overlap between the two, and while neither is obviously better than the other, I can’t really justify owning both. I had encountered this conundrum long ago and tabled it, but now it seems that the time has come to make a decision.

Or has it? Because as I listened to This Is Cinerama (the first half of which is excellent), I realized that I am not in the proper frame of mind for this music, and likely will never be. Cinerama is unabashedly romantic. It billows with love and pulses with desire and backs it up with stirring, gorgeous arrangements, resplendent with strings and woodwinds. In other words, this is not something to listen to if you are desperately lonely and starved for affection, companionship, and physical touch. While music generally is something of a balm – earlier today, I was thoroughly enjoying Black Tambourine and Beat Happening (well, maybe not “thoroughly” as to Beat Happening, but “Godsend” is an amazing fucking song) – Cinerama now too starkly reminds me of what I am missing.

Yes, other bands write about love and sex and romance. Obviously. But few lyricists are so deft as David Gedge. And not many are the bands who pair such acutely rendered sketches with music that strikes you in the heart with deadly accuracy and unstoppable force.

Take Beat Happening’s “Godsend,” for example. A love song – sweet and vulnerable and celebratory – and never once losing focus or momentum over the almost ten minutes that it lasts. Key to the song’s immense beauty and power is the simplicity of the lyrics (“It’s just the things you do / You make it true / You’re a godsend”); these sentiments are superficial in their presentation but through that format all the more communicate the inexplicable, overwhelming intoxication of love. Feelings aren’t reasons. You can list why you love someone, but you can’t always explain why you feel the way you do. And the music is a hypnotic, jangly mix of guitars playing the same three chord pattern over and over. This song mesmerizes me and produces a sense of awe, and you know, that’s good. That’s a good thing.

Cinerama’s songs do not have the same effect. Gedge’s words are too precise and direct, and the music is too expertly played. I can’t get lost in it – instead it just makes me think, and that’s always a recipe for disaster. Cinerama makes me so sad I want to die.

*Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields)

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