“Being human…is very strange.”
I’ve been in love before.
I’m naming no names…shame is a game and I’m not willing to play.
Besides, there are always three sides to every story; yours, theirs and the truth.
Truth, or some form of it, lies at the heart of this impressive, striking and impressively striking collection of songs from Marijne van der Vlugt and Paul Kennedy who last released an album twenty years ago in the shape of “Ice Cream” and it’s been twenty three years since their top twenty smash “Drink Me”. The truth of this particular situation is that it’s been far too long a wait. Expectations are high for those loyal droogs who have waited to welcome them back.
“Good Love Bad Love” kicks off with “Being Human” which sounds like the fierce last cry of a tortured soul. Van der Vlugt’s voice sounds stronger and more confident than it did during those heady Britpop days. There’s an air of menace, sex and sensuality in the music “Being human…what a stroke of luck…I must try harder to catch up” is just one of a series of bold, enigmatic and funny lines. It sets the tone for the rest of the album brilliantly.
“Evergreen” had me out of my chair and dancing around the room after about thirty seconds. “You don’t have to save me…I’m an evergreen” breathes Marijne while Paul lays down the sort of subtle grooves that make this record a physical and emotional experience. The idea of Marijne as an evergreen isn’t hard to imagine of course, she looks like she was cryogenically frozen in 1998 and thawed out late last night. Sadly, I look like someone who was 45 in 1998 rather than someone who will turn 45 in 2018…I’m no “Evergreen”.
I went through a divorce in 2008. It wasn’t a particularly easy experience but it was a Hell of a lot simpler than many other couples endure. Together we had amassed a lot of stuff during our time together…there was a lovely bespoke piece of furniture, a Phillipe Starck mirror, expensive furniture, blah, blah, blah. My position was…you can take it all, all of it, but just leave me my record collection. So, after ten years of marriage I walked away with a few boxes of records, my clothes and the knowledge that I had done pretty well. “Relationship Dust” with it’s hilarious and tragic tale of a couple warring over stuff and things took me back to that time and put a smile on my face…that’s quite the trick.
One of the real highlights of “Good Love Bad Love” (which is saying something given how good the whole record is) has to be “Nowhere Near“. It plays like the soundtrack to a very particular type of film…something moody, something sexy, something dark, something beautiful. “If you think I like you…you’re nowhere near” is the sort of line that a certain Stevie Morrissey from Salford would have cut his quiff off to have written. It’s so simple and yet it captures perfectly the way you feel when you are in that terrifying stage of love when you can’t imagine how you will be able to breathe without the other person.
A delightfully bluesy guitar riff drives throughout “Door” which sees Marijne asking, somewhat unreasonably, if an ex is holding hands with “…another sucker”. It’s another moment that forces the corners of your mouth to head North. What do they call that? A smile, of course…a smile. It seems wrong to be smiling through such bad love but what these two giddy hearts have crafted is a tragi-comedy of epic emotional scale.
“I Love the Doctor” is the dictionary definition of quirky. It’s a title that could have been lifted from any Belle and Sebastian album when they were still good. It’s a tale of obsessive love…or of a genuine relationship between doctor and patient…or of delusion. It’s great.
Paul takes over the lead vocals on “Moonshine” which highlights quite how “other” Salad were, and remain, from their peers. It’s funky…groovy…which makes me sound like some ridiculous character from a sketch show but I promise you this is a song that really does have more in common with Philly soul than North London. That dance feel is blended with an alt-country guitar part on the next track “We’ll Never Meet” which is, another, tale of obsessive love.
“When I first met you, you made me shout…that shout of gladness has petered out” is surely the greatest description of love failed ever written. That’s exactly how things feel when a relationship has run aground…the desire to shout from the rooftops about the other person, a shout of joy from the soul turns to a half hearted whisper. “Princes and Fools” captures how it feels when love breaks down beautifully.
“Blue Cold Eyes” describes the awful power that another can have on us once love has us in its grip. It can be their eyes, the way they turn their head, their smell, the way they walk…whatever it is it can pin us to the wall, knock us to the floor or glue us to their side. There’s nothing you can do about it. Even if there was…you wouldn’t. Trouble is it can all be terribly one sided.
Paul resumes lead vocals on “Hyacinth” which could easily have been recorded by Sonny and Cher in 1968. It’s another track with a cinematic feel and, again, despite the whimsical nature of the lyrics there is something darker lurking in the background.
The album comes to a close with “Fine” where Marijne tries to convince us that despite a less than sunny past good times are just around the corner…she’s “fine”. She’s not fine though. The fragile nature of her voice, at times nothing more than a broken whisper and the delicate piano that accompanies her hint at a broken heart that may never be mended.
Twenty three years then…was it worth the wait?
“Good Love Bad Love” is an album that sounds so good that you want to rush over to Paul and Marijne’s place to embrace the creators and thank them.
It’s an album about love that will make you fall in love with Salad all over again. We should all be thankful they’ve returned…the world is a better place with them in it.