Today was one of those mornings when I overslept and the dreams got weird. In one, a gaping hole had opened up in my bedroom and rainwater was pouring through and saturating my LP collection. My last vision before waking was of me shrieking hysterically in Post Alley as gun-waving highwaymen absconded with my horse-drawn stagecoach, spiriting my zither and antique mandolin along with them.
"How peculiar," I thought, as I threw back the covers. "I don't own a stage coach. What's all the fuss about?" Then I realized, I've been asking myself that question a lot lately. Why does it seem like everyone around me has to turn the tiniest slight into a goddamn three-act opera and broadcast it to the world? I'm writing liner notes for a best-of CD by a band that hasn't made an album in seven years, yet just getting the various members to talk—not to each other, just a few minutes apiece with dopey-journalist-guy me—has been a Herculean feat of tact and flattery. So I go out to unwind with a couple cocktails, and every Joe or Jane who sidles up to me at the bar has a juicy tale they cannot contain of who broke whose heart, who can't keep it up in the sack, and just what happened to those 20 missing hits of ecstasy . . . and, quite frankly, I don't want to hear it.
Don't get me wrong—I talk trash about my friends. That's human nature. But I try to keep it to a minimum. I've been bitten in the ass by spreading gossip or making the wrong drunken crack (nothing like calling the hostess' husband a closet case to deflate a party) too many times, waking up the next day and wishing I could cut my tongue out like so much sushi. Nowadays, I enjoy my melodrama where it belongs: on my stereo.
My record collection is teeming with drama queens of all shapes and sizes: Scott Walker, Stevie Nicks, Gavin Friday, Dusty Springfield, Little Annie (a.k.a. Annie Anxiety Bandez), Sylvester. A team of handsome paramedics will never discover my cold corpse stuffed full of sleeping pills, simply because when a man does me wrong or my best friend betrays me, I just play "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy or Shirley Bassey belting out "This Is My Life" ("and I don't give a DAMN for mixed emotions. . . .") until I'm invigorated with righteous indignation and ready to begin again.
But, like I said, right now there's enough trouble in my Shangri-la without pulling out the Marc Almond albums. So when I come home and want to hear something theatrical, emotional, and marked by artifice, yet something that won't jangle my nerves any further, I pop on Across the Milky Way (on Marina Recordings), the fourth full-length by the Pearlfishers, nom du disque of Glasgow's David Scott. Scott could soothe an infant with his lilting tenor, even as he unspools lyrics like "Precious moments don't mean nothing/they just leave you sick and restless" ("Steady With You"). He even makes masturbation sound innocent and sunny: "spilling my youth out in tissues on warm afternoons."
The Pearlfishers' sound is most commonly compared to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, which Scott has observed is inevitable any time a band uses more than three-part harmonies and the word "summer" in the lyrics. But Across the Milky Way also slots in nicely alongside seasoned indie-pop vets like Teenage Fanclub, the Pastels, and High Llamas (as well as most of our own Scott McCaughey's various acts) in the five-disc changer. The instrumental "The Vampires of Camelon," featuring banjo and muted trumpet, suggests "The Rainbow Connection" as arranged by Burt Bacharach, while it's pretty plain from the cheery title track that Scott was first in line at his local record emporium to buy Paul McCartney's Wingspan retrospective. On the band's Web site (www.pearlfishers.co.uk), Scott lists the Monkees, Paul Williams, Scritti Politti, Marvin Gaye, and, um, Eminem, among his current favorites.
Across the Milky Way is full of swinging ditties, like "Sweet William" and "Pain on a Smile," about finding contentment in a complicated world, even as the CD serves as a shortcut to those exact ends itself (and without any undue histrionics). So, to my forlorn buddy who made the mistake of conducting a protracted breakup via e-mail, only to find his comments passed on to all his friends by a grumpy dumpee with an itchy finger on the Forward button, I offer this advice: Buy this CD. Skip to Track 7, "We'll Be the Summer." Dance around the living room foolishly as Scott assures us that "the seasons change/so do lovers." Repeat as necessary. It'll make you much happier than those 20 hits of E.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to report a stolen zither.