Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Oliver!: A House - Endless Art (Female Version) [Peel Session] (13 March 1992)

I hadn't heard of this Dublin based band before listening to this track.  This was clearly due to inattention on my part considering that the Irish Times rated their 1992 album, I Am The Greatest as the equal 3rd best album by Irish bands in a 2008 critics poll.  Only Loveless by My Bloody Valentine and U2's reinvention album, Achtung Baby were placed ahead of it, while landmark albums by artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Ash, Damien Rice, The Undertones and Sinead O'Connor were ranked below it.  Big expectations then, but I have to say, fully justified ones.  It's a magnificent album deserving to belong to those works that journey round a person's soul and which speak of love, emotion and humanity with a poetry that dismisses empty, grandiosity but which hones in on every listeners' personal experience.  The naked emotion in the fabric of the album reflects the personality of its producer, Edwyn Collins, but A House put this wondrous, evocative feeling out there through a filter of pure pop hooks.  The album aims for the emotions and scores a bullseye with its honesty and its direct engagement with the listener, but never neglects to put forward melodies and choruses that you can sing along with.
Only on a couple of occasions do A House step outside of the self-assessment at the core of I Am The Greatest.  One occasion is through the title track itself, which is a long spoken word meditation on the lack of originality within pop music; the other is Endless Art which for some reason, became the most popular track off the album.  Indeed, it would be fair to say that it stands as A House's signature song.  Oddly, I'm not that enamoured of it.  This is not down to contrariness on my part, but more because I'm not hugely keen on "list songs".  This one may only have made the cut due to the way that they replace the string part on the original recording with a sample from Carl Orff's O Fortuna.
The version recorded for their Peel Session was the Female Version, which paid tribute to numerous female writers, poetesses, actresses, artists and others who had all died but who would live on through their art - one respect in which the famous have an advantage over the obscure, they can be relived constantly through their work.  The memory never fades.  I worry over this with my parents, both still alive and well, but one night I'd like to record a conversation with them both, not over anything heavy, but just to have something which I can go back to when they've gone, because otherwise there's no great archive of recordings or writings - only memories, which will be great, but how much nicer to have another layer to add to that in the times ahead.
The album version of Endless Art commemorated solely male figures of culture and art.  Whether this was deliberate or not, they responded to the omissions by re-drafting the lyric to include a women only list, which sometimes goes under the title, More Endless Art.  The durability of the idea was demonstrated when A House frontman, Dave Couse, re-recorded the song under the title, Endless  Art 06 with an updated, bi-gender list of the fallen.  It differs from the original recordings in that it's a slightly more sombre and touching take on the idea in comparison to the celebratory air of the versions from the early 90s.

Videos courtesy of Vibracobra23 Redux and Belfrank.

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