Thursday, November 12, 2009

#47. 'It's not enough to say that I miss you'

The Veronicas "Untouched"

I know a lot of people who were up in arms about The Veronicas concessions to electro-pop. Having not heard their debut The Secret Life of the Veronicas I can't comment one way or another, but given the singles that it produced compared to those from Hook Me Up the only real change is that the former was much more guitar focused. That's about it though, both albums' singles are great slices of power pop regardless of whether the focus is moreo n guitars or on more electronic touches. I'd give the edge to the former if only because it seems much more intimate and honest, for lack of a better word, in its emotions, and the two sisters that make up The Veronicas, identical twins Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, seem much more comfortable as Avril-come-latelys than the more mainstremed sound they got into on Hook Me Up. Of course that's assuming that the singles paint an accurate picture of their parent albums, but I honestly would rather have an album of songs like "Everything I'm Not" than one full of "Take Me on the Floor", that's just how it is.

However, even if the only thing of consequence that the electro-pop Veronicas had produced was "Untouched" it would have been worth it. It may be just inside the top 50 here, but I can't think of any other pop song this decade that's grabbed me so instantaneously and so violently and refused to hear any of my reservations about it. It's not a perfect song by any means, but in terms of instantaneous appeal there are few that are in its league. That first minute or so before the vocals come in is as great an introduction as any songs above it can manage, with those forceful string stabs gradually being underpinned by synths, drums and finally some note-perfect power pop guitar. The cumulative effect of that section pretty much guaranteed the song a place somewhere on the list, it's such an ear-catching and undeniably great introduction that even if the subsequent song wasn't the best combination of t.A.T.u. and the first few Blondie records on a sugar high you could imagine it would still have me in its thrall, if only for the first minute.

Luckily, in spite of the minor problems I have with the rest of the song - the Orilgliasso sisters aren't the best vocalist or harmonizers, and the rush of that intro isn't carried through effectively - it gets points for the way it so effectively conveys the sort of all-consuming longing that pop music rarely gets right. To call the delivery on the verses 'breathless' is an understatement, and if any element of the song carries through on the rush of the intro its those vocals. Especially during the second verse it's almost a nonstop barrage of not-too-cliched but universal nonetheless expressions of needing whoever the song's about right now and not giving a shit about what that entails. The way it looks on paper the whole thing could have come across as overly desperate and melodramatic, but in practice its riveting; the almost stream of consciousness outburst sounds so dead on and so genuine that it's hard to fault the lackluster vocal.

Then there's that chorus. If the verses stall the momentum of the intro the chorus is the one part that actually manages to build it up even more. Vocally the breathless rush of ideas of the verses slows down considerably, almost like the girls are finally able to coherently express their thoughts after letting the all the steam off. They catch their breath and get to the heart of their feelings without the endless barrage of words that the verses use, just boiling it all down to a simple 4 line summation of longing. The culminating 'it's not enough to say that I miss you' might be the best way that emotion has been conveyed in a pop song, encapsulating the distance between the two people involved without resorting to the cheap melodrama that so many 'miss you from the road'/long-distance relationship songs so often fall in to. Part of that might have to do with its energetic pace, considerably faster than any other song that's charted recently, but the words themselves don't even lend themselves too well to any sort of dramaticism regardless of how the song was paced.

The intro may be the undisputed highlight of the song and one of the most undeniably ear-catching bits of popcraft that the decade has spat forth, but on the whole it's just an all around great song. It may never reach the heights of its first minute but the way it goes about its business was so far removed from anything else on the radio at that time that it's no wonder this became the band's breakout hit outside their homeland. It may be the only thing or worth to come from The Veronicas' electro-pop experience, but even it that's the case it's the sort of thing that I'll remember fondly as a burst of something fresh in the world of pop. That's worth a lot these days

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