The Drip (I Oh You)
Weirdly enough, it was only a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about how going big - dramatic escalations, bold flourishes, emotions worn not just on the sleeve but displayed like oversized epaulettes - in pop music had in recent times been shunted off to the corners.
The preferred method has been to be bright and shiny, or solemn and introspective, but in either case still keeping things within bounds in sound and arrangements. No neo-wall of sound, no pinning listeners to the back wall, no sense that what is being written and what is being sung is at the extreme of whatever feeling was being expressed.
And this was emphasised for me as I came across some recordings of Ellen Foley, she who did the vocals on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell and has had a career singing songs not that much less dramatic. Listen to her We Belong To The Night, for example, and you get the full Springsteen/Ronettes boom crash opera.
However, plugging back into this new EP from Hayley Mary, she who arrived as chief Jezebel but has been releasing some very fine songs as a solo artist in the past couple of years (and put on an excellent show late last year), I realised I didn’t need to worry too much.
Take the title song, which after briefly deceptive 10 second quiet start sets itself free with a chiming guitar line and then comes over the hill mob-handed. We get the sound of two or three bands squeezed into one room, compressed à la Spector; her voice gradually rising higher and harder but feeling as if it has been bounced down onto the same track; the beat a sped-up Leader Of The Pack march; and the sense that everyone in that studio is straining at the leash.
In A Boy Called Rock ‘n’ Roll (a knowing title that already tells you understatement is not in favour), I’m picturing Hayley Mary gripping the microphone stand as wind blows her head back and, with all the intensity of a Tarantino heroine lip syncing to a track from Born To Run, looks down the camera as she sings “don’t worry daddy I’m not messed up … I’m in love with a boy called rock n roll”.
Meanwhile, in Would You Throw A Diamond? the rushing onto the field drama mixes Dinosaur Jr and the Divinyls – accelerating guitars, old school melody, semi-buried pop - behind the declaration that “I’m thinking it ain’t that hard to fucking kiss you in the rain/I’ll fucking kiss you in the rain” shortly before she grabs her lover, pulling him close to demand to know “would you throw a diamond?/Would you throw a lifetime away?”
You get the deal, right? Big or small, these emotions are out and open; slow or fast, these sounds are coming at you. As if the hooks weren’t big enough anyway. Frankly, if you’re not punching the air or shouting at the sky with Hayley Mary I’d wonder if you had ever bought a rock’n’roll single.
Or ever had fun.
Even the beefy ‘60s-remade-by-Blondie The Chain (one of four songs, out of the seven, released ahead of the EP) or the less successful Sullen Kink (which tries for Space Invaders soundtracked by Pseudo Echo) hold within them the sense of people itching to bust out and run, and keep running.
The Drip is pop music. Pop music big on flourishes and drama, but condensed into compact, densely packed nuggets. Hayley Mary is all in, and it seems churlish not to join in on the fun.