Published Jan 01, 2006Psychologists who specialise in sexual dysfunction might have a valuable new text. And you can whistle it. The Facts of Life, the second album by British trio Black Box Recorder, is a wry but sympathetic look at the ways in which puberty's humiliations and revelations wreak subtle havoc upon the rest of our lives. Whether the record buyers who boosted the album's pop-tastic title track into the UK Top 20 paid enough attention to realise this is a moot point.
"It was presumably just kids buying it," says co-songwriter Luke Haines, "who'd heard it on the radio, who knew nothing about Black Box Recorder and probably cared very little." The idea of his song invading the lives of N'Sync and Britney Spears fans (while, theoretically, advising them how to deal with their lustful feelings for same) must appeal tremendously to Haines's sense of the absurd. After six years of universal neglect for his previous band, the Auteurs, as well as Black Box Recorder's first album, England Made Me, he and bandmates John Moore and Sarah Nixey decided that success would be their revenge. The Facts of Life is the surfaces of All Saints and Air concealing the thoughts of Nabakov and Nietschze. It's brilliant.
It's also a definitively British album, in the way that Nixey's cooing vocals keep a reserved distance from the emotions being described. And, despite, dozens of amorous suggestions, no one ever gets freaked. It reminds one that Benny Hill made a career out of saying he was horny, and then leaving. "It's all safe titillation, isn't it?" says Nixey. "It's really strange how this country views sex."
"I think the way that [the album] deals with sexuality is certainly in that sex is a slightly kind of seedy end-product of emotional entanglement," adds Moore. "That's what we're going for. Something's going on in the other room that you're not really a part of, but you'd like to listen. [The British] idea of a torrid romantic tale is the film Strangers On A Train, where the characters never quite consummate the passion they have, whereas America I suppose has Deep Throat."
Haines, though, isn't so sure. "The whole question of the English reserve is taken a little bit too literally," he says. "I think it's more to do with the fact that we're not Sweden. People do have sex here and get down and get dirty. The only difference is that, unlike the Swedes, we put our clothes on afterward."