The self-titled debut album by The La’s remains to be the band’s sole release almost thirty years later. Having been recorded over and over again for over two years with about four/five different producers due to songwriter Lee Maver’s relentless perfectionism, the final product produced by Steve Lilywhite arrived in 1990 and was immediately disowned by the band members before they parted ways in 1992. It has gone down as a fine album in history, a staple of the jangle pop genre. Mavers has gone to label it as a “piece of shit”. Make of it what you will.
‘I Can’t Sleep’ is the album’s second song and, after the light acoustic starter of ‘Son of a Gun’, provides the album’s first kick in the balls with its raw feel and punchy rhythm. The track has a prominent stop-starting groove that emphasises its downbeat with powerful chord blasts and an occasional strike on the floor drum that comes like an explosion. And with Mavers signature raspy vocal, it makes out for a very rough and rowdy affair.
When it comes to what it’s about, I can’t say anything for sure. I used to think it was about going out to parties due to mentions of big black cars (limos?) and the inability to sleep due to said party. Though I did see an interpretation involving being sad and taking drugs to get away from those feelings. It may be so. Let’s just enjoy the music, eh.
*You may have noticed that I’ve taken away the ‘My iPod’ from post titles. I think you know what these posts are about by now. If you don’t…. I’m not sure I can help you.
Just when one Who song has been done, another comes quickly around the corner. ‘I Can’t Reach You’ comes right after ‘I Can See for Miles’ on The Who Sell Out, and as I type this I’m slowly realising the contrast between the two. The latter expresses a narrator’s confidence in their ability to see all things, whereas the former witnesses one who’s trying their hardest to gain any sort of communication with a particular entity they want to get close to. Also, ‘I Can’t Reach You’ is one the daintiest compositions on the whole album which is a sudden change coming after the chaos of the preceding song. Clearly a lot of thought was put into the order of the tracklist. I’ve listened to this album for about seven years now and that’s just crept on me.
There’s a child-like innocence I sense when listening to this song, possibly aided by the foregrounded light piano that leads the melody and the fact that Pete Townshend sings here. At this point Roger Daltrey hadn’t fully developed his trademark howling vocals of the 70s so there’s not a large difference between the two’s vocal abilities on the album, but Townshend’s higher register lends this particular song a softer and vulnerable touch.
The song is the first on the album to use lyrics/music that would then be appear on the following album Tommy through the ‘see, feel, hear’ section of the chorus. ‘Sunrise’ does it. ‘Rael 1’ does it. ‘Glow Girl’ does it too, if you own the 1995 release. Other small, small things to look out for when listening is John Entwistle’s heavenly harmony vocal during the chorus, Keith Moon’s yet again going crazy on the drums – so much so that he lets out a scream before a drum roll around 2:32 – and the sneaky key change that occurs during the instrumental break which you won’t realise would have happened until Townshend brings in the final chorus. It’s all nicely tied together. One of my favourites on the album.
‘I Can’t Lose’ is one of the many B-sides Mancunian alternative rock/grungy-type band Nine Blacks Alps made during the sessions for their debut album Everything Is, released in 2005, and appeared on the ‘Just Friends’ single. That album still sounds as good today as it did then as an eleven-year-old. I could possibly write a whole article about how much I like that album, how I got into it etc. etc. That would be for another time.
Everything Is is a perfect twelve song package of fast, biting guitar music. Couldn’t get much better. ‘I Can’t Lose’ is very much in the same vein as the songs on the album and wouldn’t seem out of place had the band decided it to be on the final tracklist, but its production doesn’t give it that heavy feel that is present on so many of the songs that did make it.
Not trying to take anything away from it though, ‘I Can’t Lose’ is still very enjoyable. It’s not meant to be a very heavy song at all. It has a self-deprecating vibe to it which I can’t really explain. I mean, the song’s called ‘I Can’t Lose’ but the song’s narrator mentions how they always lose even if they seem to be at an advantage. Whichever way it’s meant to be taken, it’s all good stuff.
Another old one. ‘I Can See for Miles’ is the seventh track and single from The Who Sell Out – the band’s third album overall – released in late 1967. I’m in that group, figuratively speaking, that rates the album as one of their best. Well, a lot of people would say that too. But I think it’s miles better than Tommy. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. All four members have more or less equal vocal duties on here and sound like they’re having a good time on every song (all 23 of them if you own the 1995 remaster/remixed edition). Plus this was the apex of The Who’s power-pop phase before they became the hard rock staple from the 70s onwards. Every song is just very entertaining.
The song concerns a narrator who, in basic terms, does not like to be taken for a fool and is number one when it comes to being observant but this is exaggerated to make it seem as if they are an all-seeing entity that can see far beyond any boundary. ‘I Can See for Miles’ is meant to sound massive. Pete Townshend described it as “the raunchiest, loudest, most ridiculous rock and roll record you’ve ever heard”. In some ways, the performance lives up to its description. I’m sure there are at least two drum takes by the manic Keith Moon on here, with drum rolls and various cymbal crashes overdubbed for full effect. It contains a memorable chorus characterised by rising vocal harmonies. There’s a guitar solo that consists of only one note. And there’s a key change for the last verse and chorus. You’d think it had everything to make it a great hit.
Apparently not. It peaked at ten in both the British and American singles charts in its day. Some would be thrilled about that, but Townshend was not too particularly happy. Despite how well (or not so) it did commercially, one can’t deny its audacity and ferocity. It also influenced Paul McCartney to write ‘Helter Skelter’ which is not so bad.
Below is a clearly mimed performance the band did for French TV in 1968.