Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Something happened on the way to Sweden.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2007 at 3:34 PM

I won’t forgive Phil Collins for his role in applying a general anesthesia to the pop charts of the 1980s. No Jacket Required-era hits like “One More Night” and “Don’t Lose My Number” have all the staying power of Synsonics Drums, and the sickening balladry of “Another Day in Paradise” and “I Wish it Would Rain Down” are centerpieces of his 1989 album. But Seriously, Phil. “Heat on the Street”? Are you kidding me?

But you know, there’s that other Phil Collins, too. The guy who in 1982 gave us the brutal cackling and double-thump kiss-offs of “I Don’t Care Anymore.” The guy who launched his solo career a year before with Face Value and “In the Air Tonight,” a track that remains on the All Murky Atmosphere team for the decade. (And I’m not just writing that as a devoted Vice head.)

Collins is also the guy who redeemed at least a little of his early solo career’s value at the end of the decade with “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.” Laced with tingling horn charts, his signature drum sound, and an irresistible set of tempo changes, “Something Happened” might be the best example of Motown’s influence on Collins' songwriting and performing.

Because it's slinky, wound-tight, and pleading all at once, it easily survives when some horrifying 1980s keyboard tones threaten to derail its verses. “Something Happened” also survives when it’s performed by an an absolutely wooden Collins who stalks the enormous circular stage like a disoriented drunk. (Naturally the band keeps it moving — it’s too great of a song for them not to tear into it.)

The ultimate proof of the song’s staying power? X-Plain.

Resembling a Sahara Hotnights for an alternate universe, the Swedish quartet destroys on this upbeat version of “Something Happens” from sometime in the early 1990s. They know it! Check out the quick, proud glances they give each other as they hit the changes like you read about. Check out the Ice Storm Sigourney sweater that the keyboard player’s rocking. And just listen to that silky bass line. All of that’s before you even get to the guitar solo, or notice the ABBA-tastic backing vocals.

If anyone would like to front me the seed money to fly them from Umeå, Sweden to Detroit City, I’ll put together an X-Plain reunion. But only if they do “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven,” and only if they bring the Hotnights with them.

To the east! Backwards!

JTL

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