Saturday, March 10, 2018

Certain Songs #1152: The Miss Alans – “Pagan Home” | Medialoper

Cassette: Bus EP
Year: 1987

1987 was one of my all-time favorite years for music. The Joshua Tree. Sign ‘O’ The Times. Pleased to Meet Me. Document. Tunnel of Love. Warehouse: Songs and Stories.

And, for me, Bus was right there with all of them: I had it as #5 on my year-end list back in 1987, and a few years ago, when I did my list of my favorite albums of the 1980s, I had it at #36, just behind The Gift, War and Fables of the Reconstruction of The Fables, and just ahead of The Unforgettable Fire, Flip Your Wig and Tim.

Heady company, indeed. But, then take a look at a song like “Pagan Home,” my favorite thing on Bus and one of the best songs of that year. It was definitely what Scott Oliver characterized as a turning point: the Miss Alans leveling up in terms of songwriting sophistication, proof that they could write a song that was the equal of their contemporaries.

And you can hear it from the opening: Scott’s acoustic twinkling around a long sustained feedback note, Jay edging it forward with his bass, and suddenly Ron’s snare drum kicking the door open for Manny’s glorious technicolor riff.

That riff, right? Jesus. Even 30 years later, the riff that anchors “Pagan Home” is a thing of wonder and beauty, answering questions that Johnny Marr and Peter Buck hadn’t even thought about asking, all the while weaving in and out of Jay’s winding bassline, Ron’s drums and Scott’s acoustic.

In the best R.E.M. tradition, Scott’s a bit buried in the mix, digging his way out for the long melody of the chorus.

What about your neighbor’s son wealth?
Does he have a larger home than you?
Platinum possessions he holds
And his worn-out sixteen-year-old wife
She looks right through to you
In your pagan home
She looks right through to you
In your pagan home

Part of the genius of “Pagan Home” is how Manny at first plays hide and seek with that central riff, deploying it after the first verse or at the end of the choruses, completely taking it away during the feedback-laden breakdown bridge.

It’s all the same
Empty life seems so plain
Empty whorehouse rooms
Where they take care of you
In your pagan home

And the other part of the genius of “Pagan Home” is how everything after that bridge is all riff, eclipsing pretty much everything else going on: Jay following it on the bass, Ronny doing big rolls and double-timing, Scott repeating “in your pagan home” over and over and over.It’s all pretty awesome, but it all just reinforces how amazing that riff is.

If Bus was the recording that galvanized Fresno’s late-80s indie scene, and “Pagan Home” was the song that put Bus over the top, then Manny’s guitar hook was the element that put “Pagan Home” over the top, one of the main reasons people got so obsessed with Bus in the first place.

“Pagan Home”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page


No comments: