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Music Picks

Del Amitri's 'Roll to Me'

This will get the girl. Or your money back.

By Thom Wong 21 Jun 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong regularly writes for The Tyee's Music Picks column. He wrote the 40 bLinks column for The Tyee, and writes the Thomas in Law School blog.

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Photo by Mario Sorrenti.

At least one person found my last Music Picks column on the end of hip hop -- what was the phrase again? Ah yes -- really dumb. I guess the feel-good humour I was aiming for blew right over his head and instead my deeper, insidious, defaming agenda hit him on the head. Kudos to you, investigative journalist!

Others actually took the challenge of finding a better year for the much-maligned genre. And after looking at the list of releases in 1994 -- Oukast, Nas, Tribe, Beastie Boys, many considered seminal -- I'd have to agree that it was the ultimate year, relegating 1993 to penultimate status. Of course, without the groundbreaking achieved in 1993, 1994 never would have happened. So in a way, we are all right. But in another, more specific way, I'm right. (Memo to certain music writers: I kid, I kid.)

However, while hip hop is good for many things -- riding dirty, leaning back, gold digging -- it doesn't usually precipitate romantic liaisons. Which naturally leads us to Del Amitri. (Stay with me here, this is stuff you want to know.) An impromptu backyard barbecue survey demonstrated that all but one participant remembered Del Amitri. But by the time I hit "the wrong guy, the wrong situation" everyone knew "Roll To Me," recognition spreading like spicy sauce over their faces.

"Oh," they said, "that song."

That song indeed. In the pantheon of great-songs-to-feel-good-about-not-yet-having-the-girl, "Roll To Me" ranks easily in the top three, just behind every Beatles song (claiming the first giant space) and possibly Mr. Big's "To Be With You." It starts with a gentle swell of noise to get the ears ready for the melodic pop genius to come, then follows with chiming guitars, the rolling drums, and is that...yes it is! Vibra-slap!

Now, to win the girl, most guys reach for Hegelian dialectics, or geometry. Classic mistake. Del Amitri, who hails, like my mother, from Scotland, knew better. They use the framework of a Shakespearean sonnet with the sensibilities of Paul McCartney; just listen to the phrasing on the immaculate bridge: (Since you can't hear these words I'll try and approximate it with a cunning use of italics.)

And I don't think I have ever seen a soul so in de-spair
So if you want to talk the night through
Guess who will be there

Imagine Christopher Walken suddenly fronting the Gin Blossoms and you get a close idea.

The song clocks in at 2:12. Not many bands are writing two-minute songs anymore, which is a shame. It'd be interesting to know what Radiohead would have sounded like had they taken up Ed O'Brien's suggestion to craft an entire album of them, instead of driving the bus with all their guitars into the ocean and replacing Phil with a computer. But I digress. Get onto iTunes or whatever you use, fork over the pocket change for "Roll To Me," slap it onto a ghetto blaster and hold it over your head in front of her house. If you don't win her over, I'll give you the money back.

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