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This Day: February 25

February 25, 2010

Another day, another birthday, another song, but a song surprisingly tangential. Faron Young, country singer and actor, was born on this day in 1932. Over fifty years later, the song Faron Young open the album Steve McQueen (Two Wheels Good in the US) by Prefab Sprout.

With a definite twang and banjo pickings you would think the song Faron Young was a tribute to the great man himself. Afterall, the its parent album is nothing short of an exploration of masculinity, and Young was known as the Singing Sheriff.

But start to pick the song apart, and it is about… well… nothing. Even theme of listening to the radio on a late night drive is even less than metaphorical once the song finishes. Considering Paddy McAloon’s excellence in constructing lyrical narratives (think Cruel and Appetite), Faron Young seems an exercise in being clever. That said, with lines like “as obsolete as warships in the Baltic” such cleverness is a joy to behold.

Even musically, as a country song it falls apart, deliberately, and gloriously. The banjos are the cheesiest you’ll hear until Beck’s Sexx Laws, but while the drums and bass play things straight, the keys and Wendy Smith’s voice hint there’s another game being played.

When the instrumental break comes it all breaks forth: the harmonica gets dubby reverb, strange sounds start thudding about, things momentarily backwards, the guitar sneers at Morricone clichés. If you get to listen to the studio version, it mightn’t be a driving song, but it’s a hell of a trip. This live version ain’t bad either.

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