Jesse Jarnow

“in a different light” – the bangles

“In a Different Light” – The Bangles (download here)
from Different Light (1986)
released by Columbia Records (download here)

(file expires November 2nd)

My first exposure to the Bangles came through the radio show Kids America that my mother and I listened to, and where — being a kid-friendly novelty — “Walk Like An Egyptian” was a ceaseless hit. Not long after that, we bought a tape of the album. The songs disappeared into my memory until this summer, when my friend Paul convinced me to grab them from his iPod. The title track, whose chorus was one of the few bits of the album I remembered (along with Prince’s “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like An Egyptian”), remains awesome. Give or take a little bit of the production sheen, it doesn’t even sound too dated.

I can imagine walking into a bar on the Lower East Side and hearing some sub-Strokes band covering this. It’s garage-pop of the first order: pounding wah guitar intro, a chorus/hook that drops immediately, and — eventually — lyrics that run just deep enough to be meaningful as lyrics, but don’t strive to be anything deeper. The first verse, to me, is just plain effective: “I wanna make a movie / I wanna put you on the silver screen / Sit in a darkened room / and study you from a distance.” There’s no attempt at a backstory, it’s just an observation — an unrhyming one, too, which makes it even kinda elegant. (Funny that the other two verses do rhyme, but it’s really the first one that sets the tone.)

All the lyrics are about making some kind of art to explain the subject — a movie, a novel, a painting — but, in the end, it’s just a song, and not even one that really explains anything. It only gets at the feeling of wanting to explain — which is not only a more modest goal, but a more evocative one, and certainly more mysterious. Not everybody needs to be John Darnielle, y’know?, and “Bob” bless ‘em for all that.

3 Comments

  1. Michael says: - reply

    Man that takes me back to my Aunt’s apartment where I endlessly danced to “…Egyptian…” and got schooled on 60′s Rock n’Roll and 80′s pop music. She would set a bin of records in front of me and let me choose based on album covers! It was there that my virgin ears heard Hendrix, Floyd, Talking Heads, and The Bangles for the first time. Thanks!

  2. Ben Weidner says: - reply

    Jesse – Man, you gotta write something about Weird Al’s new song “White and Nerdy”. I know you’re an oldschool Weird Al fan – I even remember that you met him once. I just heard the song for the first time yesterday and it blew my friggin mind. I guess familiarity with Chamillionaire’s track “Ridin’ Dirty” would help, but its funny as hell either way. Weird Al is the muthafuckin truth.
    Ben W.

  3. Thanks for the memory of “Kids America.” I was one of the hosts, and it’s nice to be remembered. You certainly turned out pretty well for listening to the show. Or was that in spite of listening to it?