Sunday, 8 May 2011

Squirrel Thing

Connie Converse is the sound of aloneness (not loneliness) grown so familiar it has become part of the furniture. The characters she sings of, the roving women and the playboy’s of the Western world wear their separateness like a badge of honour. They can entwine themselves briefly into other people, sample them like a light snack but they know that this can only be temporary, delicious but temporary. As we wander through the grass, we can hear each other pass but we’re far apart, far apart in the dark. Love is only a masquerade and you can hear in her imperfect, detached voice that she knows this. Her voice is not beautiful, her guitar playing not particularly accomplished, but there is by turns a resigned weariness or a knowing sneer to her music which is allowed to glow malevolently from the simplicity, the nakedness of her songs. What foolish girls who look up to the sky in search of love, wishing and waiting until they die. Even their dreams will betray them. The man in the sky isn’t married yet.

She is not immune through. In ‘Talking Like You (Two Tall Mountains)', she hears some lost love everywhere. Echoes of him everywhere (I can relate). That is when you know for sure that a break-up has bruised you, infected you to the very core. It doesn't matter what you do or where you go; reminders of him follow you around like your shadow. The whole world becomes a minefield of memories. Up that tree, there's sort of a squirrel thing. Sounds just like we did when we were quarrelling. Brilliant rhyming aside, this image is cute but so very sinister in the way you can be so tied down, so trapped by someone who is no longer there. But there is a edge of defiance as well. You might think you've left me all alone but I can hear you talk without a telephone. Connie know that she has been able to capture something as well. The memories are hers. He does not get to take away what he once gave so willingly. The bravado is ironic, of course but also, sincere. Its almost like she's saying 'Fuck you, I will always own a piece of you, it's mine'. She is endlessly pragmatic even through loss. And so stoic. She sounds like an emotionally repressed person forced to talk about their feelings in family therapy.

Connie Converse recorded these songs in the 50's. In 1974, she wrote letters of farewell to her loved ones and then left, never to be seen again. Too few are the days that will hold your face. She is still missing to this day. It is hard to separate this biographical information from the songs themselves. The whole album sounds like the thoughts of someone too used to everything disappearing, who herself is not immune to disappearing. All of this is only temporary. But so delicious anyway. How sad, how lovely. How short, how sweet.

© 2011 Emma Mould

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