Music for Chameleons
fat cat; 1997/
am sick and tired of growing old.
Every American youngster must have sung this line before his twenties, with a 5 chords detuned guitar in his clumsy hands, chilling and self-satisfied, standing in the garage of his drummer’s house after class. Thousands of three pieces machines ( guitar-bass-drums ) live in the shadow of the valley of Seattle, anonymous or self-proclaimed heirs. For the masses, grunge was Nirvana but Nirvana is dead. Stony Sleep is not grunge when I think of it. The difference basically stands on the lyrics and on the pop stains in their music. I always miss the point in terms of references.
did I buy Stony Sleep’s records?
I bought the first album in 1998 in a second hand record store because it was cheap but I have no memory of having listened to it before. I think I ridiculously liked the name. I bought a promotional copy of the album a few weeks later in the same store because I was genuinely fond of the album and because the track listing was different ( and it was cheap ). I must have found the ‘Absurd’ single in the same store but that would be telling. My purchasing of the second album in Glasgow was purely fanatical cos I knew I would be disappointed just like almost every band deceived me with their second album ( Silverchair, Foo Fighters, Presidents of the USA, Ugly Kid Joe, Fun Lovin Criminals,…). In those days, I had not yet discovered the other side of life and truly liked these bands. Sha-sha-sha-shame. The whole package for something like 13 euros ( 8£, 13$).
For Chameleons’ is a rare collection of efficient pop rock songs, with many
potentially breakthrough hit singles. The album opens on “She had me”, one
of these 3 minutes long powerful hymn to blind love. And that’s it. Stony
Sleep has said it all in one song and the rest of the album follows the same
patterns. Teenage angst melting with a naïve vision of life, overdriven
melodies and love. Ben Smith speaks of love in such a naïve way that I am sure
that’s why it appealed to me in those days when I only understood one word out
of three. “Absurd” is as simple as that : I am from Mars / she is a Neptune
queen. It may be stupid but it works. The songs are never complex, with only few
back vocals and arrangements, in order to let the essence of the songs flow. The
bass line in “Jacob’s Goat Addiction” has always impressed me, the band
temporarily breaking into a soft melodic ballad which is sublimated by the noisy
chorus. “Mother of Ten from Texas” is something like folk grunge. Ben
Smith’s voice echoes that of Cobain for sure, but he never reproduces it
blindly. I suppose Cobain was singing like that when he was a bored teenager.
“This Kitten is Clean” is here again pleasingly naïve : I am superman in
this dream / I am made of fish in the sea / fading picnics in the sand / sucking
strawberries from her hand. The tracks are linked together perfectly with no
mistakes. The album ends on “Down by the Urineside” where the band
appropriates itself the themes and sound of grunge; and “Incestual” that is
a sad acoustic ballad about misspent youth ( when my head explose my thoughts
will be exposed ).
second version of the album contains four tracks that are not on the official
copy and six of its best songs. These unreleased songs complete perfectly the
album, just like the b-sides on the single, and especially “The Playground”
which is both depressing and heavy. In the end, there isn’t a single flaw on
these records, and it is rare for me to accept that. I always seem to find a
little itch somewhere.
wish I was an American suburban middle class teenage guy with divorced parents
and problems at school with my literature teacher. I wish my mother was
desperate enough to buy me a 50$ broken Les Paul and a Russian dirty amp to play
along with my friend Sam and Jesse. I wish I had an uncle named Ron who would
give me his collection of punk and hard rock vinyls. I wish I was a little bit
taller. I wish my stepfather would hate me. I wish I was naïve enough to ask
Caroline for a date at the local drive in. I wish we could get drunk and
maladroitly make love in my 1968 Corvette. I wish we had dreams for the future
and society to ruin them. But officially I am dead.
/dec 1st 2002/