The Indelicates have provided me with something of a problem. After a tumult of praise, it seemed time to give Songs For Swinging Lovers a listen. What I’m confronted with is an endlessly varied set of songs held together by a through line of frankly spectacular lyricism. I can think of no other artist who writes with the wit, venom and sheer balls of Simon and Julia Indelicate – there are critiques of feminism, politics, capitalism, art and philosophy alongside pure storytelling, whilst references to Orwell, Foucault and god knows who else (I’m sure I’ve missed many) ensure this becomes a borderline literary experience.
The problem, however, lies in the music. It’s all well and good dazzling the listener with the words, but this album lacks any musical cohesion whatsoever. Frankly, if the lyrics were even a little less good, I think the initial lauding of this album would have been dampened considerably. That’s not to say the music is poor – ‘Your Money’ takes on the Manics’ combination of vicious rock and intelligent songcraft, ‘Ill’ is just a wonderful indie tune and the shambling cabaret of ‘Be Afraid of Your Parents’ is brilliantly bizarre. Then again, the clichéd country of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ sounds almost parodic in its familiarity, and herein lies the difficulty for me.
If I can criticise the lack of musical cohesion on the album, and even some of the individual songs themselves, I simply can’t enjoy it freely. On the other hand, the lyrics are so beautifully different (in their own words ‘When you’re other to everyone/You’re [...] valuable‘) that I want to hear this again and again.
So here’s my question; can one part of a song/album make up for a lesser part – can you have truly great music when an element of it simply isn’t great in and of itself? I don’t think I can answer that question, because I simply can’t work out whether I like Songs For Swinging Lovers or not, but whatever else might plague me, I know this album has intrigued me (in at least a theoretical sense) beyond any other release this year.