The day my dad bought Mark Knopfler’s 1996 début solo album Golden Heart – he laid flat on his back in front of the hi-fi and listened to the opening track, “Darling Pretty” on repeat. Full volume. The whole day.
It’s very difficult to listen to Mr. Cat and The Jackal’s latest album SET – because similar to the effect Knopfler’s Golden Heart had on my dad – I can’t get past track 3 – “I Want You [To Know]” – without continuously hitting the repeat button.
When MCJ’s accordionist Gertjie Besselsen squeezes the keys of the tender and beautiful, forthcoming vocal melody with such great melancholy – you’d expect the song to be about an apology or a declaration of love. But then guitarist Jacques du Plessis opens the gambit with:
“There’s not much to gain here/
Not much to lose/
You know I’m a beggar baby/
But I’d like to choose/
I want you, I need you/
I’d like you to know/
I don’t love you/
And I want to let you go”
You realize it’s a very crafty break-up-song where the charming narrator is being a sneaky dick to the person he’s about to dump.
There’s a cruel anticipation within the lines:
“I want you, I need you/
I’d like you to know”
and you can imagine the person on the receiving end expecting the following lines to be: “That I love you and I won’t let you go”, but no, it’s quite the opposite.
It’s like taking a girl out on a romantic dinner-date at a fancy restaurant where you feed her tea and oranges that come all the way from China and just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her… you actually do precisely that. Because she never was no Suzanne who had the power of wavelengths or who could talk to rivers.
In the chorus the narrator plants the knife in the heart of the relationship with:
“But if you need me/
You know I can still be your friend”
And then he twists the knife with the coolest, most cold-hearted fuck-you-and goodnight-line I’ve heard in long time:
“I did not get cold feet/
Cause I’ve been wearing my shoes/
I just don’t love you/
Try not to come to the blues”
Queue the tragic-magic accordion solo and ask the waiter for the bill because she’s paying for dinner while he’s dancing her out the door on a cloud of smoke and mirrors. Tomorrow she’ll wake up and realize that he pulled a Keyser Söze on the love she thought they had.
Hit repeat again.
In a recent interview with Piet Botha, the eternal solitary man mentions that although we have more musos in the local scene these days – something’s lacking.
“Hulle speel ’n ding stukkend, maar waar is die songs? Waar is die songs? Waar kry jy die diamante? Musiek is soms soos versteekte geheime.”
Piet, I’ve found a diamond. It’s called “I Want You [To Know]” and it’s available on Mr. Cat & The Jackal’s latest album, SET.
The track’s beautifully produced album-cut is available on Bandcamp, have a listen:
There’s also a great live version the band did on SABC 3’s Expresso recently: