San Francisco's Amoeba Music might just be my new favourite place in the world. I bought 17 albums there in my two visits last week, alongside a T-shirt and a DVD. I also discovered something odd there (although probably not as weird as eating at a place called 'Quaker Steak & Lube' as we did in Indiana): Amoeba had a wider selection of Bluetones CDs on sale than I have ever seen in any London shop. Good luck trying to mind the Mudslide EP here, for instance. It reminded of Mark Morriss' claims at their last London gig in April that "Baby, Back Up" had become a massive hit in America. Self-mocking humour in reality (and it wouldn't do them any
good if they carry on cancelling tours outside of the UK) but just momentarily, it was possible to imagine...
I've already mentioned my troubles with the most recent album, but that same gig really brought them home. See, it's one thing to find songs on a record unremarkable, but another thing to find them the same live, when they're cutting into time that could be being used instead to play much loved older songs. Listening to completely new songs at a gig can often be unfulfilling, but it shouldn't remain that way after they're actually released and the gig marked the first time ever that I had listened to the most recent Bluetones stuff out of duty rather than with any great enjoyment. It never happened with Luxembourg or Serenity Now, and it was a bit painful to realise.
"Baby, Back Up" was an unforseen exception to this, though. I'd never really noticed it as strongly before that point, but there's something of a spark there that missing elsewhere, a certain mischief that matched to its introduction. Mark plays the alarmed prude, with his chorus exclamations backed by guitar revving and jutting into the spacious lightness of the rest of the song, providing a sharp contrast that's funny and a little bit cruel.
'Baby, back up,
Enough is enough,
You're freaking me out,
not into that stuff...
I thought you were cool but you are just weird'
There's a great burbling organ line in the middle section and end of the song too, and you can just imagine him and his girl out flying kites and floating boats, as he professes his interests to be. But as for what it is that he prefers that to, not so clear. For someone who sang happily about S&M on the previously album, this is incredibly coy, with 'fumbling around under the coats' about as close as we get to details. With a first verse that's positively predatory, it's easy to come to the conclusion that it's a want for commitment that's freaking him out rather than any bizarre fetish, except that, huh, there's a final twist of 'these are the final days of our lives, we should be going at it like knives'.
I won't pretend that it fits together that well, but damn if playing the threatened bastard doesn't make for quite the nice change.