October 10, 2004

Just This Side of Wimpy

I've always had a soft spot for what I call "White Wimp" music -- soft, melodic, harmony-laden music that comes more from a folk tradition than the usual blues. I was shopping at a Trader Joe's the other day and one of my favorite white wimp classics of all time, Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat" came on. The song is irresistibly catchy. I love that Stewart's English accent creeps out (unlike most Brits, who try to pull off a black American bluesman's inflections). And the sheer lack of rock bravado is refreshing -- you get the impression that Al Stewart could not beat anyone in a fair fight. But Al doesn't care.

The Go-Betweens, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, could each probably whomp Stewart. But they wouldn't want to. These two Aussies, alternating between solo careers and duo projects, have amassed quite the discography. I'm really fond of their latest release, Bright Yellow Bright Orange, full of lilting, melodic pop. While the Finn Brothers' underlying sadness permeates their work, Forster and Stewart acknowledge the downside but remain sunny and optimistic.

Wimpy? A little. Beautiful? Yup.