'The Performance Of A Lifetime' from Suspended Second by The Granite Shore
Do you remember how at the start of this advent series (when we had more time on our hands) we put forward the notion of Pop not being best placed to deal with complexities due to its essential short-form medium? And do you remember how we suggested that Stephin Merritt has surely made significant works using that very property to simultaneously disprove and reinforce the notion? Well in Suspended Second The Granite Shore do their utmost to pull off the same conjuring trick. From some angles Suspended Second is a somewhat gloomy and angry record, filled as it is with songs dealing with the deeply personal politics of Brexit and the state that we are in; from others it is teasingly light and tight, making use of production techniques borrowed from Nick Halliwell’s beloved ABBA; glimpsed from yet another perspective it emanates the aura of ‘70s Progressive Rock (another of Halliwell’s esoteric obsessions). That Suspended Second blends such diffuse influences into a cohesive whole is part of its charm and magic.
It works best for me on the nigh on ten minute epic of the perhaps appropriately (and/or perhaps ironically) titled ‘The Performance Of A Lifetime’, where the pace is slower and the pitch lower, allowing Halliwell’s vocal to relish its rich timbre and the narrative he weaves to elegantly unfurl. What’s the narrative about, you ask? God only knows, although Halliwell’s own notations appear to suggest the song is filled with oblique references to Prince (that’s just Prince, the purple one, and not Prince So-and-So), so perhaps this means the song is an intriguing meta-narrative on the industry of Pop. Or perhaps too the tale is of some sort of exiled nobility coming back to claim the throne of Brexit Britain like the ghost of Edward VIII flying in from Paris or perhaps Nigel Farage stepping off a plane from Brussels waving a piece of paper in the air (his EU pension, most likely). So multiple meanings and interconnected complexities or simply too clever for its own good? Me, I’m going firmly with the former and proof that Pop can be grown up, intelligent and delicious listening all in the one moment. Then again, Halliwell would probably point out that ABBA proved this already with ‘Winner Takes It All’ some thirty seven years ago, and who would I be to argue?