Grenadine – Goya

June 30, 2008


Goya (Teenbeat/Shimmy Disc 1992)

I know I keep saying that each album is one of my favorites, but each album posted occupies a special place in my heart. Grenadine is no exception. The cover and artwork of the album is pure schtick. Its imagery predates the lounge revival which brought Martin Denny, Les Baxter and Esquivel back into circulation and the liner notes falsely claim the songs are Sinatra and Cole Porter tunes. Thankfully, the band only gives passing nods to the easy listening of the 50s and 60s and reminds me more of Robinson’s angelic harmonies of the title track of his Imperial fffr album.

Consisting of Jenny Toomey of Tsunami, Mark Robinson of Unrest and Rob Christiansen of Eggs, Grenadine was a supergroup in a shaggy dog sort of way. At least, my lonesome sould thought so. Outside of moments on Unrest’s last albums, Goya contains the best performances any of these talented, but inconsistent artists ever recorded. Tsunami had a few great songs, but relied too heavily of Toomey’s husky, moody voice to carry lackluster tunes. Mark Robinson always had too many ideas and genres to explore. Eggs fell victim to the same miscues as well. Goya’s strength lies in the fact that the source material is already classic and their quirky sensibilities elevate instead of dilute the finished product.

It doesn’t hurt that Toomey and Robinson possessed two of the most more interesting voices in 90s indie rock. Their voices never sounded so good as when covering “I Only Have Eyes For You” as Toomey belts it out in such a manner that it makes you take a second look at the song and realize the beauty of its lyrics.

My love must be a kind of blind love
I cant see anyone but you
And dear, I wonder if you find love
An optical illusion, too?

Are the stars out tonight?
I dont know if its cloudy or bright
cause I only have eyes for you, dear
The moon may be high
But I cant see a thing in the sky
cause I only have eyes for you.

I dont know if were in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here, so am i
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

She transforms it into a moody meditation instead of blind-eyed devotion. I forgot how wonderful their cover was until reevaluating it for this review. It jangles like indie-pop, it sounds like indie-pop, but it transcends its littler corner and becomes something much more lasting.

Mark Robinson follows up with a one-two punch as he sings “In a World Without Heroes” A good friend who was interested in astrology found this song to be romantic as the lyrics relate his ability to discern the meaning of her star signs and horoscope to find a common bond between them. He seems worries that he doesn’t truly know her, but shows confidence that love can be derived from this celestial moment. It is sweet and tender in the nerdiest way possible. It still arouses a bit of mist in the ol’ eyeballs.

Small Factory

For if You Cannot Fly

When I teach my struggling students how to write a descriptive essay, I ask them to pick a single adjective to describe the object or being that will be highlighted. Then, I request that they provide three points or arguments that prove this quality can be justified in their essay. If I was split down the middle, and my sterner half asked my floundering half to write an essay about For If You Cannot Fly, I would quickly pick “bittersweet” as my magic word.

My reasoning lies in the fact that this band seemed to epitomize the creative and emotional hangover that can happen when the “sunshine and lollipops” ethos of twee no longer fits and a major label knocks on your door and demands more than this. Their debut I Do Not Love You wasn’t exactly packed with “Kumbaya” moments, but tracks like “Keep on Smiling” and “I’m Not Giving Up” as well as their earlier singles pointed towards the sanguine sounds associated with their contemporaries. However, it seems like band seemed stressed, depressed and somewhat bitter by the time of its follow-up.

For if You Cannot Fly begins with the refrain “The Last Time I spoke to you, I said some really mean things/ It didn’t feel good but I felt better” and goes on to state “i’m not done, I’m having too much fun.” There is a bitterness to the lyrics on this album that points towards the reasons behind the dissolution of the band and the sad, self-destructive undertones to many songs. The chorus to “Hi, Howard I’m Back” includes the chorsu “I’m going to drink until I fall down” and describes a drunken soul who dreams about holding a lost lover. If you listen closely, this is a really depressing album.

It isn’t all razorblades and Draino. I always naively bonded with the song “Versus Tape” as it proclaims the joys of listening to a beat-up Versus cassette tape and how “that tape is the world spinning round.” Yes, it is equally naive to believe the truthfulness of this verse, but it resonated with how I would wander the streets of Western PA with a walkman and get so passionate about the albums that whirred in my pocket. It is idealistic, but it perfectly distills how a love of music can empower you for a moment or a lifetime.

Overall, For If You Cannot Fly is a subtle bummer, but includes enough glimmers of hope to open your eyes to the bittersweet qualities of our lives. Just dig beneath the surface and listen for the deeper meaning behind this album.