Thursday, July 19, 2007

Boats and Trains

The shortest song in the Pulp discography and therefore something of an anomaly, “Boats and Trains” is the only song-sketch the band ever did. I think of song-sketches as very short pieces that nonetheless manage to feel complete and even tell some sort of story. For example, “Her Majesty” by The Beatles, “A Pretty Girl is Like…” by The Magnetic Fields, “Love and Kisses” by Sam Phillips and “Through with Buzz” by Steely Dan.

Despite its brevity, “Boats and Trains” is one of the finest entries on It and an early inkling of Jarvis’ subversive writing abilities. Acoustic guitar, organ and (for one time only!) mandolin gently make their way through an ingenious set of chords. Jarvis softly warbles about his secret fears and the futility in opening up about them. “You’d be sure to leak it/ You couldn’t keep it inside/ No matter how hard you tried/ On Boats and Trains and/ And Boats and Trains and/ Funny things and…” Are the boats and trains (and funny things) a way for him to imagine his private thoughts spreading far beyond the relative safety of his Sheffield home? Already, the paranoia that would infiltrate many a Pulp album has begun to set in.

No comments: