Quirk Your Enthusiasm (17)
August 17, 2016
One of 25 installments in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite New Wave songs from c. 1977–1982. Josh Glenn’s series introduction is here, and you can listen to the QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist here. Enjoy!
“CLEVOR TREVER” | IAN DURY | 1977
In the petulant patter of “Clevor Trever,” Ian Dury channels the immovable drunk who’s got you pinned in the pub, explaining how and why, in millimeter increments, he got to be in a particular predicament, and why it ain’t his fault.
Trever is a yob in the Martin Amis vein, so accustomed to a futile, haphazard existence that the how and why don’t matter, “cos nothing underfoot comes to nothing less to add to a load of old toot,” he assures you gently. Anti-Social Behavior Order? Fuck that noise!
Dury’s genius is to bring the music hall narrative to complete abstraction. He prattles on and on, his words landing ever so lightly as if he’s prancing on cobblestones. Dury’s dry, weightless voice piles up the Cockney negatives like a tower of Styrofoam demitasse cups, balancing them on a nice chunky bass line and lovely swirly, cobwebby synthesizer. “And it ain’t not having / One thing nor not another / Neither either is it anything… whatever.”
Fine, fine, you try to assure him, uselessly. But he’s about to make a point.
“Either have they got—” (yes, yes, of course, you nod)
“Nor neither haven’t not—” (um, no, they don’t, you frown, hoping that’s the right response)
“Got no right to make a clot — out of Trever.”
Dury was an anomaly in the Stiff Records lineup. A decade older than his label mates, permanently affected by childhood polio, and until his 30s an art professor, he created a persona uncontaminated by style or smartness, yet complete and exquisite.
QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Mark Kingwell on Soft Cell’s TAINTED LOVE | Joanne McNeil on Gary Numan’s METAL | Devin McKinney on Suicide’s FRANKIE TEARDROP | Douglas Wolk on Family Fodder’s SAVOIR FAIRE | Elina Shatkin on Marianne Faithfull’s BROKEN ENGLISH | Steph Burt on Altered Images’ HAPPY BIRTHDAY | Greg Rowland on Jilted John’s JILTED JOHN | Gordon Dahlquist on XTC’s RESPECTABLE STREET | Adrienne Crew on D-Day’s TOO YOUNG TO DATE | Jonathan Lethem on The Blue Nile’s I LOVE THIS LIFE | Josh Glenn on Tim Curry’s I DO THE ROCK | Molly Wright Steenson on Missing Persons’ WORDS | Anthony Miller on The Nails’ 88 LINES ABOUT 44 WOMEN | Luc Sante on The Normal’s WARM LEATHERETTE | Mimi Lipson on Dolly Mixture’s HOW COME YOU’RE SUCH A HIT WITH THE BOYS, JANE? | Tim Carmody on Talking Heads’ LIFE DURING WARTIME | Ingrid Schorr on Ian Dury’s CLEVOR TREVER | Adam McGovern on Lene Lovich’s LUCKY NUMBER | Deb Chachra on Rough Trade’s HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL | Tor Aarestad on Oingo Boingo’s LITTLE GIRLS | David Smay on The B-52’s’ DANCE THIS MESS AROUND | Jessamyn West on Blondie’s HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE | Drew Daniel on The Human League’s MARIANNE | Erik Davis on Tuxedomoon’s TIME TO LOSE | Dan Fox on Thomas Dolby’s EUROPA & THE PIRATE TWINS.
#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.