Monday Morning Rhapsodic: Veronica

This weekend's NY Times Sunday Styles' "A Night Out With" column featured a profile of the band Spoon, a band I'll readily admit to knowing next to nothing about, except that I'm supposed to like them a lot, and that a lot of people I know love them. I am, however, familiar with frontman Britt Daniel's winning good looks, and even though I've heard very little of their music, every picture of Daniels causes me to rethink that indie rock lacuna in my life. He is an attractive man, I'll give you that -- a welcome addition to the Army of the Weak-Chinned.* Reading the profile reminded me of Daniel's cameo on Veronica Mars in season two. In it, he does a very charming karaoke version of Elvis Costello's sort-of hit, Veronica, from his 1989 album Spike. [You can watch a clip of that cameo here.] And that got me thinking about the original song and its accompanying video, which I hadn't heard nor seen in quite some time. Thanks to iTunes and youtube, both the audio and video are back in my life, and for that I am eternally grateful: Veronica is a tremendous little song,** and the video is really something else. Co-written with Paul McCartney, the song is about Costello's ailing grandmother as she was slipping further into Alzheimer's disease. It's a sweet, poignant song about memory and time, and a little bit about love, and maybe also just a wee bit elegiac. It's also incredibly catchy, with great harmonies, which I think says a lot about Costello's genius*** -- you're singing along to a pretty bittersweet song about senility. The video adds another dimension to this: on the one hand, it's a fairly literal interpretation of the song itself, a straightforward glimpse into memory, and the effects of Alzheimer's on how we remember the past. But then you've got Costello sitting in an empty room, talking about his grandmother, and as the song plays you can hear his voice quietly singing along, over the tape playback. And there's something about the whole thing that ... I dunno. It's really touching without being schmaltzy. I'll confess to getting a little teary when I saw the video again. That's all I got for you. No funny, quippy ending. Just watch the video, I guess. It's good stuff. * Crack open a nice bottle of Greco di Tufo with me and I'll explain. ** Possibly even better is the demo version of the song, which is available on the deluxe edition of Spike. Stripped down to guitar, piano, and vocals, Veronica becomes that much more sparse and elegant, without losing any of its poppiness. I can't seem to locate any version readily available online, except ... erm ... here. (The visuals are a little distracting, no matter how cute you think Kristin Bell is.) *** There are lots of folks out there who think of themselves as true and proper Elvis Costello fans, and who insist that he's done nothing good since 1979's Armed Forces. To be sure, it's a spectacular album, but I'm a bit more generous about the Costello oeuvre, and think that his genius started to slip around the time that he and Diana Krall got together, when he started getting super-sentimental, and not in a nuanced, Veronica-esque way. I am not the only one who thinks this.

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