Today’s song comes from a CD I picked up on a whim a few weeks ago and just got around to playing through this evening: 1998’s Lips That Taste Of Tears (an incredibly happy title, I know) by London-based indie pop act Trembling Blue Stars. The group’s frontman, Bobby Wratten, formerly of The Field Mice and Northern Picture Library, wrote and recorded TBS’s 1996 debut, Her Handwriting, as a way of processing his own professional and romantic breakup with former bandmate Anne Mari Davies. He unexpectedly found a commercial and critical audience for his sadness, which motivated him to record the 1998 follow-up. I guess Wratten still had a lot of left-over emotion to work through when it came to Davies, as she is actually pictured on the cover of Lips That Taste Of Tears; she also appears on several songs. A potentially melodramatic concept is rendered heartbreakingly effective due to Wratten’s honest, straightforward lyrics and delivery, along with a restrained musical style that combines textured electronics with gossamer acoustic guitars. “Headlights” features subtly devastating musings like, “Aching at the close of the day/Walking and wishing she/Were sharing the evening with me,” and, “It’s such a different world in which she moves.” The track ends with an absolutely aching punch to the heart: “I could tell she was awake/She wanted, too, to break the silence/If we’d have talked into the night/Would that have made a difference?” Damn if this isn’t the saddest song I’ve heard in a while.
Side note: Arcade Fire may have unknowingly ripped off Trembling Blue Stars: the stately slide guitar lick from “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” off 2004’s Funeral is almost identical to the one featured on “Headlights.”