'Hotwire The Ferris Wheel' from Life Will See You Now by Jens Lekman.
If there was a theme for the later part of this advent series (there isn’t) it might be Artists Who Also Featured In The Unpopular 50/50 Series. All of which is a fairly long-winded way of saying you can read much of what I have say about Jens Lekman over there/here.
Now if I were to be horribly honest I would tell you that although I continued to love Jens through thick and thin, I found his I Know What Love Isn’t set of 2012 to be something of a disappointment. Sure there were some splendid moments but it did not really hold my attention as a collection. Perhaps Jens felt something the same. Perhaps this was why he embarked on the Postcard series of songs in 2015. If it was undertaken as a way of breaking through the blocks of creation then the evidence of Life Will See You Know is that it was a magnificent success, for Life is certainly the best album Jens has released since When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog, and was that really an album as such or ‘just’ a collection of sketchbooks and singles? Well whatever, Life Will See You Now is endlessly entertaining and filled with songs that move us emotionally and dynamically (yes! They make us want to dance!).
The one I keep coming back to is ‘Hotwire The Ferris Wheel’, the latest in a (too) occasional series of duet opportunities between Jens and Tracey Thorn. The chemistry between their voices is as perfect as that between Tracey and Ben Watt and do you know I really do long for a full album of their collaborations. Perhaps inevitably then there is something of Everything But The Girl in ‘Hotwire’ too; like some perfect melding of their sumptuous string soaked sophistication with the bleeping disco House doppelgänger. This one goes like this but backwards; the squiggling techno squelches setting a foundation for the orchestrated swell that folds around our shoulders as the song reaches conclusion. Just so.
Jens’ songs have always been peopled by intriguing characters. It’s who he is, was, might might not be. He weaves fascinating tales of make-you-better-believe. Truth is stranger than fiction but fiction makes it truer than you might otherwise think possible. So in ‘Hotwire’ we have Tracey telling Jens and us all about her perhaps less than law abiding brother teaching hot wiring skills and we have Jens idling along “past the slumbering seals” maybe waiting for something anything or nothing. I kinda see Jens as Tom Courtney and Tracey as Julie Christie in Billy Liar. Jens all daydreaming, tied to the old town with it’s "buildings like bowling pins” and Tracey all breezing back for a moment, hoping maybe to pull him to something somewhere more exciting and real. “Let’s do something illegal” she says. “Let’s just live a little”. And so they do. And so we do vicariously through them. Tracey urges Jens that if he writes a song about this then “please don’t make it a sad song”. And he doesn’t. They don’t. They make it into a miniature epic.