Monday, 17 June 2013

The Beautiful South 'How Long's A Tear Take To Dry?'

Chart Peak: 12

Following in the footsteps of last year's smash hits 'Perfect Ten' and 'Dumb'. 'How Long's A Tear...' is their latest release - due on 8th March '99... The video for the track features a Scooby-Doo-style cartoon version of the band!
I don't normally bother to quote the part of these sleeve notes where they plug the album the track comes from, but this one is notably inaccurate, attributing the song to their 1990 album Choke - it's actually from 1998's Quench, although the single version is a shorter edit. In fact the version on Now 42 is edited still further, a clean version which cuts the second half of the exchange "Will you be my locksmith tonight?/Will I shite!" entirely. Other versions drop only the last word, if anything at all (in the video, the cartoon Jaqui Abbot's mouth is covered during that line).

As the quote above suggests, the lyric finds Paul Heaton on familiar territory, as one half of a bickering couple. It's one of the lighter examples in the catalogue though, feeling more like sparring than anger (though in the light of today's headlines it might not seem as amusing as it usually would). Heaton being Heaton he can't resist throwing "the flowers smell sweeter, the closer you are to the grave" into the chorus, though the fatalism is also brightened by the music which shows the influence of "rhythm consultant" Norman Cook. It's a funky track, driven by low electric piano and a flute lick vaguely reminiscent of Gil Scott-Heron's 'The Bottle'. Maybe closer to the music Heaton enjoys than what he's famous for making.

I was always fond of this one, although as my dad had the album and the B-sides weren't very interesting I never bought it. Enough people did for it to become their last Top 20 single, and maybe with hindsight their last real standout track, though they continued well into this century. 

Also appearing on: Now 15, 16, 18, 22, 27, 28, 32, 35, 36, 41
Available on: Solid Bronze - Great Hits

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