Friday, 6 February 2015

7 inch singles collection: Fairground Attraction - Clare

Folky acoustic, mariachi jazz...


A-Side: Clare
B-Side: The Game of Love

(RCA 1989)

Fairground Attraction popped up at the tail-end of the 80's with a huge number one record - Perfect - seeming from nowhere. All acoustic with a strange instrument providing the bass sound (a guitarron, the bass instrument favoured by Mariachi bands). Perfect seemed to have come from nowhere, and was inescapable in 1988. It certainly didn't sound much like anything else in the charts. It wasn't following a scene, and didn't create one in it's wake, then suddenly Fairground Attraction disappeared as suddenly as they had arisen leaving behind one great album, a handful of singles and a collection of b-sides. The constituent members of the group went off to have solo careers with a variety of success. Maybe there are more groups who should do this kind of suddenly be big, then disappear thing, rather than go on and on and on subjecting us to more of he same thing over and over again. 

Clare is not Perfect, in fact it is better then Perfect. The guitarron provides a bouncy swing to the melody that carries you along with it. It already has a jazzy feel to with Eddi Reader's voice swooping up to the high notes before gently floating down to the meat of the song. The clarinet - another highly unlikely instrument for the 80's charts - adds a proper jazz sound to this and adds a layer of melancholy as only a clarinet can. The mournfulness of the clarinet sound is needed because the rest of the tune is so jolly that it is in danger of swamping the meaning of the rest of the lyrics. The titular Clare is a "serpentine seductress" from New Orleans who has stolen the narrators lover away from her.Although the narrator comes across as a little unstable - she can "hear them making love" - if that's metaphorical then that's creepy, if that's not metaphorical than that's probably grounds for a restraining order. Fortunately the swing, the clarinet, the voice, and the lyrics all fuse together to make something that is greater than you would expect.

The Game of Love is not a cover of the Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders song of the same same name (more's the pity). Not that this Game Of Love is not interesting in it's own right. It's a low key affair - during the singing the main instrumentation backing Eddi Reader is a snare drum, intermittently punctuated by trumpets and clarinets, on the instrumental break and on the tail end of the record these take over, and what we've got is a slow and smokey trad jazz number. As a song it's slight, but charming, and it knows just when to finish - so I can't really criticize it.

Overall this is a record that is different from the norm, and succeeds almost effortlessly. I was going to say that it dares to be different - but that would be wrong, it's not in itself a showy daredevil of a record, instead it charms and seduces just like the Clare of the a-side by using all of it's natural talents to draw the audience in.

Next time a punk waltz..?

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