This is the second in a series of musings on the first two volumes of the now out-of-print 80s music collection, Living in Oblivion, which will proceed in track order.
MP3 – “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” by Naked Eyes
Lyrics – “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” by Naked Eyes
While not the greatest song in the Naked Eyes canon (that honor goes to “Promises, Promises”), “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” still impresses thanks to quality source material courtesy of Mr. Burt Bacharach, who’s written some of the greatest pop standards of the last fifty years. It clocks in at 3:40, which is about the same length as “Too Shy” but unlike that opus, it somehow manages to leave the listener wanting more.
Bacharach said he preferred to write for female voices, so the duo of Naked Eyes is good enough in a pinch. Frankly, Sadie Shaw’s original version in 1964 did the song only rough justice. She sings as if she’s in a hurry, and her voice reminds me a bit too much of Michael Jackson’s early works. Plus, the background vocalists make Benny Hill’s Ladybirds* sound like classically-trained vocalists, by comparison.
Pete Byrne isn’t quite the crooner the song needs here, but what he lacks in phrasing, he makes up for in longing. It’s almost as if you can hear him creating the template for Colin Meloy’s timorous mewling about sailor’s wives crying about their husbands being eaten by sea monsters or whatever.
Wikipedia says Naked Eyes was “the very first band to make significant use of the Fairlight CMI on a pop recording,” before contradicting itself by saying Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel used it a couple years before. This is one of the things I love about Wikipedia: no fact is not fungible. If you didn’t know it was used primarily in the 80s, you’d have only to have heard the words “light pen interface” to get a clue. In any case, much like key parties, the Fairlight CMI’s time has come and gone though I bet it was secretly used on that one Andrew WK album that’s only available as a Japanese-import.
To capture the proper amount of bombast, the song sounds as if it was recorded in a studio on the same block as a Catholic church. Each verse after an instrumental break is preceded by more (synthesized) pealing bells than your average Easter celebration in Rome.
Oddly enough, that church must be on the industrial end of town. The sounds of those faux hammers in the second verse make me think of that one Simpsons episode where the steel mill turns into a gay disco called The Anvil, and I’m pretty sure this song breaks the record for “most drum fills.”
Outside of a few Elvis Costello songs, “Always” might be the best example of a song whose music is in direct conflict with its lyrics. Though what Fisher’s intoning is really depressing, heartbreak never sounded so happy. Everywhere he goes, he’s reminded of this woman he was “born to love,” as he pines for her while walking the streets. He “will never be free” from thoughts of her. All this over someone with whom he didn’t even get to first base (note the lack of kissing or holding tight at the cafe with the nighttime dancing). God, no wonder everyone I went to junior high with still loves this song.
So all that having been said, it rightly stands as the definitive version of the song, even if the drum intro always makes me picture Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer.
Naked Eyes would revisit parenthetical titles with its single “(What) In The Name of Love” off its second, and last, album though Byrne is apparently still making noise about a third, even though keyboardist Rob Fisher died in 1999. If he had a sense of humor, Fisher would bill himself as “Naked Eye” even though people might mistake him for a Luscious Jackson cover band.
* After writing this, I discovered via IMDB that The Ladybirds actually sang on one of Shaw’s later hits. So apparently, I’m not the only one to think this.