On Rumer, and the wise words of Whispering Bob
Last night we were lucky enough to be invited along to a showcase for the second album by Six Albums alumna Rumer. This was all very exciting for us – trekking down to Hammersmith Working Men’s Club, a beautiful hall sitting just off the Thames and surrounded by very scary tall buildings where we’re led to believe the poor people live. Outside the venue Rumer had done some naughty flyposting with some massive pictures of her mug next to the album title, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. Inside she’d been even naughtier, and had graffitied her name all over the walls. In the exact font off the album cover. It was very neat (and probably quite removable) graffiti.
We lingered about and made friends with some members of Rumer’s fan club, which was nice. Especially as I didn’t think anyone had really bothered with fan clubs since A*Teens or Aqua, or one of those other Scandinavian pop groups that vaguely unnerved me in the late 90s. Every now and then pretty girls came past and offered us canapés. This was our favourite bit of the whole evening, and we took a great deal of jumbo king prawns and honey mustard sausages before we realised that the scotch eggs they were giving out contained quail eggs. QUAIL EGGS. We quickly worked out where the girls were coming from and positioned ourselves directly in their path.
After three miniature game pies, a little cup of prawn cocktail and no less than six glasses of (free!) wine, Whispering Bob Harris took to the stage to introduce the evening’s star. We asked him to speak up, because we’re terribly witty like that, but someone gave him a mic, and all was fine.
Now, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is a departure of sorts from Rumer’s platinum-selling debut record, ‘Seasons of my Soul’. ‘Seasons’ was written almost entirely by Rumer herself, drawing heavily on autobiographical blah blah blah… you get the point. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ plays a classic filler game – that is to say, an easy album knocked out between proper records. Indeed, it consists entirely of covers – normally a relatively cynical move employed by crooners in the latter stages of their career. The twist here is that not only are the songs all covers of songs originally written and sung by men, but also that you’ve probably never ruddy heard of them.
There’s no ‘My Way’ to close the record, or a pretty but superficial take on ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Rather, Rumer draws on her famously eclectic musical knowledge and pulls out songs by Tim Hardin, Jimmy Webb and Paul ‘wrote the soundtrack to Bugsy Malone’ Williams. She sampled these tracks last night in a short set that came to little over half an hour. It was all that was needed, though. Though none of the songs stick out as singles, that was never Rumer’s end game with this record. Instead, she is looking simply to share her love for and reignite interest in some fantastic songs by some terrific writers.
Bob Harris whispered it best in his introduction, championing the fact that thanks to ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ he now had an excuse to play some great forgotten pop songs on his radio show. And you know what? We’re with Bob. The album will have its detractors – not least cynics eagerly waiting for their next chance to growl at MOR pop music for discerning middle-aged middle-class people – but not a single one of them has any right to look down on an album that is going to bring new attention to Todd Rundgren or Townes Van Zandt. Good on you, Rumer.