Hurts so good: Di­vorce may be just the thing for a hit al­bum

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION -

Di­vorce makes for great mu­sic. There’s noth­ing bet­ter than anger, bit­ter­ness, re­gret, guilt and loathing to fire up the cre­ative fac­ul­ties. And if it’s plat­inum disc sales and su­perla­tive crit­i­cal ac­claim you’re af­ter, your best bet mu­si­cally is to split up ac­ri­mo­niously and bleed it out all over the tracks.

This per­verse mu­si­cal truth has been uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged by ev­ery­one from Fleet­wood Mac (Ru­mours) to Bruce Spring­steen (Tun­nel of Love) to U2 (Achtung Baby) to Abba (The Vis­i­tors). Throw in Beck (Sea Change), Adele (21) and the Primus in­ter pares that is Bob Dy­lan’s Blood on the Tracks and you come to re­alise that truly, it’s the sad songs that mean (and sell) so much.

Leo Tol­stoy (mak­ing his de­but in Re­volver) once said that “All happy fam­i­lies are alike; but each un­happy fam­ily is un­happy in its own way”. It’s the same with songs. Happy songs all say the same thing, but un­happy ones get per­sonal, spe­cific and don’t spare us the de­tails.

What Spring­steen ex­pressed about the break-up of his mar­riage to Ju­lianne Phillips in Bril­liant Dis­guise is a very dif­fer­ent kind of hurt to that ex­pressed by Nick Cave in Far from Me (off an­other great di­vorce al­bum, The Boat­man’s Call). But then, Cave knows which side his artis­tic bread is but­tered. “I’ll do any­thing to get a good song,” he said once. “Even be in­volved in a dis­as­trous re­la­tion­ship. Love dies. What re­mains is the art.”

Chris Martin and Cold­play have a new al­bum due out, but the prob­a­bil­ity of it be­ing a new Blood on the

Why, Gwyneth, why? Chris Martin’s next Cold­play al­bum may not be the break-up screed we’re hop­ing for

Tracks is rather re­mote. We’re no doubt look­ing at mu­sic’s first “Con­scious Un­cou­pling” al­bum.

This just won’t do. Sorry for your trou­bles and all of that, but we’re sort of used to, and in­deed ex­pect, ran­courous abuse, cheap shots and low digs at this junc­ture. Granted, it’s dif­fi­cult to rhyme any­thing with “ve­gan” and “mac­ro­bi­otic”. But if you make lots of money from writ­ing songs about how much in love you are, your au­di­ence sort of ex­pect you to write songs about how much out of love you are now.

But Ghost Sto­ries, we’ve al­ready been warned, by Chris Martin him­self, won’t even be a “mar­riage break­down” al­bum:

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘break­down’; this was more a re­al­i­sa­tion about try­ing to grow up ba­si­cally. If you can’t open yourself up, you can’t ap­pre­ci­ate the won­der in­side.” So it’s an “is­sues” al­bum then. Oh dear.

Is­sues and plenty of eu­phemisms, it seems. “The al­bum is about how life throws these colourful chal­lenges at you,” says Martin. Sorry, but only a foam­ing-at-the-mouth holis­tic re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­lor would ever come up with the phrase “colourful chal­lenge” to de­scribe a mar­riage break­ing up.

“If you don’t let love in then you can’t re­ally give it back,” he adds. A fine sen­ti­ment – if you’re do­ing an al­bum of Barney or Peppa Pig songs.

We sup­pose it’s un­fair to pre-judge Ghost Sto­ries on these Hall­mark ba­nal­i­ties. Still, if you’re look­ing for the real low­down on di­vorce, stick on Marvin Gaye’s Here My Dear. This one truly hurts so good.

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