Archive for October 2019

Songs from the Vault

It’s been about a couple of months since the last SFTV so it’s time for another. And none too soon, as I’ve got some great tunes for you…

First up is Slowdive with the first track off their 1993 album Souvlaki, Alison. It’s got that massive dreamy, shoe-gazing sound that I’ve a soft spot for. Souvlaki only made it to #17 in the album charts, receiving a mixed reception. It’s had a re-appraisal in recent years, which is good to know, especially as it passed me by in ’93.

In contrast to Souvlaki, 69 Love Songs (1999), by The Magnetic Fields, didn’t pass me by. Moreover, unlike Souvlaki, it received widespread critical acclaim. While, regrettably, I didn’t pay it an awful lot of attention at the time, I’m glad it’s since come to my attention. One of the album’s highlights is The Book of Love, a song as stripped back as the lyrics are poignant.

Sticking with the subject of love, I first heard the next tune via a cover version by Beck, totally unaware of its provenance. True Love will find you in the end, is a track off 1990, an album by the recently deceased Daniel Johnston. If it’s stripped back you want, it doesn’t come any more stripped back than this. Johnston recorded most of the album in his own home; ongoing mental health issues preventing him from recording in a studio. It’s a heartfelt tune that, like The Book of Love, is powerful in its simplicity.

This blog seems to be developing, albeit unintentionally, a theme or certain shape. Leaving the Table is one of my favourite tracks off of Leonard Cohen’s final album, You Want it Darker, which was released three weeks before his death on 7 November 2016. The song is supposedly about the death of a ladies’ man but it’s hard not to read more into it as Cohen’s affecting swan song.

I normally do five songs for SFTV but that seems like the perfect place to end things. I hope you’ve enjoyed these selections.

Book review – Saints of the Shadow Bible

Last November I picked up the 18th novel in Ian Rankin’s Rebus series (and reviewed it in these pages). At that time, it’d been a decade since I’d read a Rebus novel, not being aware that Rankin had brought him out of retirement (albeit in a civilian role). My overall impression of Rebus #18 was positive, albeit accompanied with the sense that something was missing, and hoping that that missing thing would return in Rebus #19.

Rebus #19 – Saints of the Shadow Bible – (2013) sees Rebus back on the force, in the rankling (no pun intended!) position of Detective Sergeant; a demotion. The title sounds more like a Dan Brown novel and refers to the crew (the ‘Saints’) that Rebus first ran around with on joining the force, each of whom swore an oath on what was known as the ‘Shadow Bible’. The Saints played hard – more ‘Life on Mars’ than ‘Line of Duty’ – and not always by the book. Following changes to Scotland’s double jeopardy law, the Solicitor General wants to reopen a case which could cause problems for the Saints, who’ve gone their separate ways. Leading the investigation is Malcolm Fox in his last case for ‘Complaints’ – the force’s internal affairs division. Fox and Rebus aren’t the best of friends and Siobhan “Shiv” Clarke, now a DI, and Rebus’s boss, is referee. As ever, there’s another case on the boil which becomes entwined with the Saints.

So, does the missing ingredient return and what was it? It’s hard to be precise but it’s fair to say that Saints feels like a Rebus book of old. With Rebus back on the force and the sparring that entails, I think we find our missing ingredient. There seems to be more of Shiv in comparison with #18 – if memory serves – and watching the relationship with Fox unfold is a delight. You can take for granted that it’s well written, with excellent characterisation, and Rankin does his usual excellent job of weaving together a number of seemingly disparate and believable stories.

It’s highly recommended but you really should start at the beginning with Knots and Crosses. You’ll thank me.