Monday, June 19, 2006
“Nobody’s Diary” by Yaz from the album You and Me Both
Fifth week of June, 1983
There is no worse kind of pop than bad 80s Brit-pop. And Yaz’s “Nobody’s Diary” is very, very bad 80s Brit-pop.
Please note that this is coming from a guy who carries eighty Gary Numan tracks around on his iPod; I have even been known to listen to Commodore 64 remixes. In the interest of full disclosure, I will also stipulate that I somehow dodged this lamentable effort when it débuted during my high school years. But this cultural deficit enables me to approach “Nobody’s Diary” with fresh ears, free of any nostalgic banging-the-outsider-chick glow that might have disguised its New Wave shitemeistery.
I press “play,” listen, and am horrified to discover that the primary melody line is carried by a naked synthesizer. And it is not just naked; it is naked and wholly unattractive, pervaded by a Casio CZ-101 vibe that undermines its Erasure-esque ambitions. You can hear it struggling to be all Korg-y and stuff, but it ultimately comes off like early Nintendo background music, albeit with better percussion samples. If its ASDR envelope were to somehow morph into a real one, it would have no prepaid postage, and you’d have to slather on the Elmer’s your own self.
I will also state that I have enjoyed the vocal stylings of Alison Moyet under more favorable circumstances. But here, her voice is as flat and unappealing as the instrumentation. Worse, her enunciation is poor, and as syllables drop out of the mix briefly and without apparent reason, one is tempted to fill in the gaps with profanity, as if watching a badly-edited, undubbed R-rated movie on local syndicated television. For example, during the bridge that goes “Ahhhh haaaa [pause] (an)d anyway,” the “and” is barely heard, facilitating endless speculation of the “fuck it anyway” variety.
As for the lyrics that can be heard, what do they mean? The basic message appears to be that the singer is upset that her lover is moving on, and wishes she could win him back; she does not wish to become part of his past. But was the lyricist commenting on the creative process in real time when writing “My head was so full of things to say/But as I opened my lips all my words slipped away”? Was there a clever twist intended in the chorus’s final rendering, wherein the “be/see/be” rhyme scheme is suddenly replaced by the innovatively brain-dead “be/be/be”? Was allowing the backing vocal (“A page in your diary, babe”) to finish the lead singer’s train of thought an ironic commentary on the text’s blatant neglect of its own title? Does “You can change the chapter / you can change the book / but the story remains the same / if you take a look” mean anything coherent whatsoever, even in a symbolic sense? I believe the evidence points to one and only one conclusion—the lyrics simply suck just as much as the rest of the package.
If you missed this track back in the day when it might have had a marginal shot at being played on the radio, you may want to check it out for curiosity’s sake. But after listening to it numerous times, I believe the band’s name was changed from Yazoo to Yaz for the U.S. release with good reason. While the alias fooled no one, at least it could not be made to rhyme with Wazoo.
Best Part: Three delicious moments of anticipation when you think the tempo is about to shift gears, just before it doesn’t