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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Life is Sweet/Afterlife

Hansel and Gretel, Maria McKee, Life is SweetLife is Sweet isn’t the best song on the album it gives its name to. For me, that’s between Absolutely Barking Stars and I’m Awake but it is one of its best songs and, in retrospect its greatest achievement; like A Day in the Life, standing outside the album while pulling together its strands to neatly tie off what it makes into a unified whole.

Life is Sweet is one of only two songs on the album to be sung by a character who isn’t the subject of that song. The other being Smarter. This means that, while other tracks can wallow in the strangeness and uneasiness of their protagonists, Life is Sweet can stand beyond them and comment as a sympathetic but partially detached observer. Needless to say, the song ends with one of the great climaxes in the history of popular music as the strings kick in and seem to take off, flying like Peter Pan above the rooftops. What better way to view the follies and turmoils of humanity whilst also rising above them?

Life is Sweet, the album, was a one-off, quite unlike anything else McKee’s ever recorded. In some ways, the fact it was never replicated is disappointing, but the truth is it had no choice. Already, before the album had even ended, its themes and its mood were starting to threaten to outstay their welcome and wouldn’t have stood up to another album in the same vein.

But, whatever anyone says, it’s Maria McKee’s greatest work and so, while this particular strand of McKee’s career may have burned just briefly, the music it spawned has shone for much longer and is showing no signs of fading. It means that, in the end, all you can say is this one is for the girl who told us she wasn’t listening but listened well enough to give us one of the finest albums of its decade.

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