Friday, 28 September 2007

LADY SOVEREIGN: Those Were The Days

The intro to this song demonstrates exactly why Lady Sovereign has what Lily Allen could never have; an opening “aah” which sounds like a weary, painful groan followed by an extremely nervous, semi-giggled spoken intro: “Uh, OK, this is, um, my cheesy intro, and this is my…(cue sudden burst of laughter)…YES! OK, um, this is a song all about how I grew up, so, um, yeah, like..” You can picture her standing before her parents or at the end-of-term school concert. But then she fearlessly VAMPS into a huge “YEAH YEAH!” as the track swings into action; an old-school groove decorated with hazy summer guitar, high swirling string synths and scratching. It sounds wonderfully natural and instinctive as she describes days which are too soon for me to think of as a different era – the mid-late nineties? – but for her clearly represent a spent childhood; halcyon times of Safeway trolley downhill racing, ten ice pops which melt in their pockets, water fights, swapping jungle tunes on cassette, and McDonald’s bumbags (“That was back then,” she warns, “so boy don’t mock it”).

But as the track progresses, although the music becomes no less cheerful, the memories become steadily darker; being chased by the local pit bull or the “odd character that every borough had,” stabbings, and it becomes clear that those days weren’t quite so rosy. Finally she looks at the present day, the Coffers community centre having been turned into an Asda, and concludes, grimly, “the Chalkhill Estate don’t exist no more – it’s just talk.” Real in a sense absent from subsequent copyists, her “Those Were The Days” makes this writer doubly detest Universal Music for sitting on her album for so long, allowing Allen to streak through with her packaged Asda variant. Funny, scary and moving, sometimes all at once; let’s hope she gets to make a second album.