You’re only as good as your last song
Every writer seems to spend time at some point in their lives fishing around for an idea for columns, so I thought it would be an interesting idea to look at some recent albums from the point of view of how they end. Albums are often judged by the first songs or more regularly by the singles released from them, but how they end is surely at least as important an influence on whether you listen to something again.

What can often happen is that the last song is merely bolted on to make up the numbers. This seems to be the case with Junkboy’s Lost Parade album on Enraptured which concludes with ‘This is our Music (This is my remix ­ Vageir Sigmatan)’, an understated clicks and cuts afterthought. This is a shame as the rest of the album is quite a special blend of post Tortoise meandering with the Beach Boys occasionally asleep on the mic.

Another way of ending an album is blurring the lines. This is demonstrated perfectly by Scrabbel with their 1909 LP on Three Ring Records with the last track (number 24) not actually listed on the sleeve notes. It could be called ‘Your company’ but we just don’t know. It has a style that is often used to end an album - The playful ditty. In this case it is not particularly successful and doesn’t really help raise the level of the rest of the record’s lo-fi Byrdsesque travels, which includes a somewhat pointlessly accurate version of ‘Waterloo Sunset’.

We then move on to a rather neat way of ending a record. If you can’t write a song that would work well at the end, just bookend it with a rehash of the first track. This idea is used to good effect on Low Light’s Dark End Road that concludes with a washed out rework of ‘The one I love has gone’. It’s a nice idea to wrap up the wistful album with something familiar but it is the kind of album that cries out for something to pull it out of the dive. Perhaps the beautiful chimes of ‘Hide a while’ would have been a better choice to resonate in the ears of the listener longer.

There was always going to be one album needed to be reviewed that fails to fit neatly into the theme. This is definitely the case for Sonic Youth’s deluxe edition of Goo on Geffen. Here we find a record for the completist fan searching for unreleased gems; hence the 31 track marathon which makes it unfair to just pick on track 31 as it’s the sort of record you need to just dive into. This two-disc epic reveals the demos, b-sides and out-takes from this momentous period for Sonic Youth as they stepped into the mainstream.

Hearing the extra songs gives you a good idea of the process of song selection for the originally released Goo. As you wade through the demos and rehearsals you can’t help thinking how much of a different or challenging record it could have been if its original 1990 release had included tracks such as the straight Stooges punk rant of ‘That’s all I know (right now)’ or the non-song scrapings of ‘Tuff’. However it is interesting to hear the hits like ‘Dirty Boots’ in their 8 track demo state to realise that they actually they sound very similar to the final version. It is good to know that the more ‘poppy’ sound was not all down to major label production, boardroom debates and channelling for college radio. It was just where the band were heading anyway. Although saying that, the ramblings at the end of this demo were hacked nice and tight for the public. Perhaps you can hear Mr Geffen in the background going “Come on Moore, you have to swim with the big boys now, lets loose the wigged-out bit.” Incidentally the last track is a tongue in cheek promotion only interview from the band with poetry and politics all trying to find out who is Goo? A big record with another really different and weird ending.

To end this ramble through the finales of CD’s we arrive at ‘This Room’ by Erick Messler which manages to get it just right with a Pavement ‘We Can Dance’ spirited affair. Haunting yet uplifting it sets the rest of Dreaming in the Royal Oaks on Falsetto Records off perfectly. If you were to listen to this song first you would rush to check out the rest of the collection of lazy summer evening meanderings and be rewarded for turning a record on its head.

© 2005 David Ireland