22 December 2007

Catch You, by Sophie Ellis-Bextor

There are few things as satisfying in the world of popular music as the stalker song. Most notable is that ode to prolonged harassment ‘Every Breath you Take’, by The Police. Now, though, comes a contender to that throne; an absolute banger that throws the ominous solemnity of Sting’s shrubbery-lurkage out of the window in favour of a more turbo-charged, frantic psycho approach.

This ditty’s lyric is perhaps most thematically reminiscent of that time in Seinfeld when Elaine was stalked by her demented colleague Sam. Her answer-phone diatribe of ‘Elaine...I am going to find you. If not in your office then in the Xerox room or the little conference room near to the kitchen...’ is very much echoed by Bextor’s own semi-lunatic raving:

The morning paper
Look in the mirror
On your key chain
Or in the coffee spoon

On your shirt sleeve
In the flat-screen
In your mailbox
I'm breathing over you.

Of course the intentions of the television character and this song’s narrator are quite opposite; Bextor’s psychosis is driven by love rather than resentment, and it is for this very reason that it is so powerful; obsessive lust is a far deadlier foe than mere office rivalry (‘Come on baby, when will you see’, she demands, ‘that you and I were meant to be’). The sense of a very English eccentricity at the heart of the mania is seeded by such turns of phrase as ‘but may I remind you’, delivered in Home Counties English lurking betwixt the more trad pop threats that ‘there ain’t no engine fast enough / My love’s gonna catch you’.

And it is this intense lusting that really frightens, as Sophie follows that popular posh-kid perspective of the spoiled sector insisting they get whatever they want (c.f. Franz Ferdinand and their surely rhetorically-monikered anthem of the Rohypnol fiend ‘Do You Want To’: ‘I’m gonna make somebody love me / And now I know that it's you’). So it is with Bextor, she too uses the word ‘love’ as a threat, the Damoclean sword dangling ominously over her quarry and ready to drop at any moment: ‘Why waste your energy / No point in fighting’, she sings, as she suggests the relationship she demands is the target’s ‘destiny’.

The music has enough bite in its grooves to keep up with the lyric: buzzing synthetic guitars zip around, mingling in the mix with alien insectoid keys that swarm in the background. The beat is basic but powerful as it gets Sophie’s point across suitably bluntly. Most satisfying of all is the chorus which explodes as bombastically as one could want; it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to compare it favourably with that of Rihanna’s omnipresent ‘Umbrella’. ‘Catch You’ is Bextor’s most oddly compelling song, and I would be content if she never topped it.

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