It’s not the first time Chris Bell‘s I Am The Cosmos has been mentioned round here, but it’s the first time (surely not!) that I’ve shone the spotlight on the single’s flip side, You And Your Sister.
The only solo material released in his lifetime, the 7″ is the perfect distillation of Bell’s loose and melancholic approach to his music. On one side, the imperial I Am The Cosmos, a sky scraping anthem dressed to kill in revved up ringing guitars and double tracked harmonies. You don’t need me to point out that it would prove to be something of a lightning rod for many ambitious bands around the Glasgow area.
Chris Bell – I Am The Cosmos
On the other side, the naked and raw You And Your Sister, teenage angst set against highly strung and gently picked acoustics, sighing cellos and voice-cracked harmonies. Sadness in a bottle and sold back to the heartbroken with a keen ear to the musical underground.
Chris Bell – You And Your Sister
If this is your kinda thing – hi, Norman! Hi Gerry! Hi Raymond! – you could do worse than track down I Am The Cosmos, the album that was pieced together posthumously from Bell’s scattered demos and rough recordings. Most of I Am The Cosmos is frazzled and low-slung, packed full of beaten riffs played on beaten guitars and very much in the acoustic/electric vein of the single…or indeed Bell’s previous band, Big Star, a teasing glimpse into what coulda/shoulda been had the artist not crashed his car and died.
I’ve been playing the record a lot recently, coming to it on the back of This Mortal Coil‘s contentiously superior version, a track that jumped back into my conscience after a misheard acoustic guitar strum on an advert had me convinced the advertisers had borrowed it. They hadn’t, thankfully.
This Mortal Coil – You And Your Sister
With knee-weakening vocals from Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly, This Mortal Coil’s take is something of a breathy cry from the heart and fairly leaps out against the arty, Euro-goth torch songs that make up much of Blood, the album from which it is taken.
With intertwined voices and fingerpicked acoustics blending into one stop-for-a-moment recording, it’s plaintive and pastoral and pretty much the definitve version. Sung from the female perspective, the ‘your sister says that I’m no good‘ line takes on a whole new slightly sinsiter perspective when you hear it. I’m sure there are whole Guardian pieces on such things. For now though, enjoy a great version of a great song.