Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sisters: You And Your Sister


Chris Bell: You And Your Sister


When I first posted the original version of You And Your Sister here way back in 2010, I described it as a song that "offers raw redemption, with Chris Bell's broken delivery and slightly off-tune bass holding it together until the highly orchestral, swirling atmospheric bridge kicks in and all is lost to summery teen angst - just as the heavy-hearted homosexual, heroin addict, and struggling Christian himself was lost to a late night car crash in '78, the same year the song was first released as a non-album single."

What I didn't mention was that one of the most powerful choices Bell made in releasing this b-side was the use of a totally minor character - that of the sister who claims that the narrator is "no good", but is otherwise absent in the lyrics - in the song's title. Doing so forces us to enter the song as a companionate outsider, removed that much farther from the otherwise intimate performance and first-person narrative; the resulting experience of listening invites us to share both the desperate distance the narrator feels for his subject, and the inherent cultural disapproval that the titular sibling represents - itself a common theme in Bell's work, as evidenced most obviously by the parental role in Big Star's Thirteen.

Bonus track: the production on this recent cover from cinematic art-pop duo O + S, which appears on the award-winning indie-slash-dreampop 2010 lullaby covers album Sing Me To Sleep, uses plinking acoustic tones, chamberfolk strings, and lush, echoey, doubled vocals to add new atmospheric layers to the song, trebling the distance and desperation even as it calms the slumbering soul.

O+S: You And Your Sister


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