Wheat – Until It Takes

I think Wheat’s ‘Don’t I Hold You‘ – the original version, not the later one that was on the ‘Elizabethtown’ soundtrack – is one of the best love songs of all time: delicately pulsing with tenderness and longing, its quiet urgency and exquisite refrain, driven by low-key but sincere vocals, wash over you like a gloriously unforgotten, aching regret. The song by itself should have made Wheat superstars, but the world cruelly passed them by, and even with a more commercial follow-up – ‘Per Second, Per Second, Per Second (2003)’ – the band never managed to hit the big time. And neither have they managed to write anything nearly as beautiful as ‘Don’t I Hold You’. I must have played it thousands of times, but every time the opening notes hit me I’m surprised at how fresh it sounds, how urgent it remains for me, how it has not lost the power to move me. It’s a small shock to realize that the first time I heard ‘Don’t I Hold You’ was on the Mark & Lard show on BBC Radio 1, all the way back in 1999. That it sounds so new to me perhaps owes as much to the power of the song as to how static my intake of western indie music has been during my twenties, as I began to explore the equally wonderful world of Japanese music.

I only recently realized that Wheat are continuing to make music. I’d been a little scarred by how bad ‘Everyday I Said a Prayer for Kathy and Made a One Inch Square (2007)’ was, and kind of stopped following them altogether. You can never hope for a band to come up with a song as good as your favourite, but ‘Per Second’ had been a very enjoyable effort and I certainly wasn’t expecting anything as unlistenable as ‘EISAPFK…’. Dipping again, however, I came across this gem, a song with a title almost as evocative as ‘Don’t I Hold You’ and full of languid, mournfully sweet (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron) moments that were the hallmark of ‘Hope and Adams (1999)’. Mournfully sweet is something that Wheat does best, forever watching a girl from distance, wondering what might have been, doubting if you could have done anything better, wishing you were someone else, and all that. ‘Until It Takes’ is of a similar mould, resignedly and rhetorically asking if things are ‘better off this way’ and apologetically stating that ‘I don’t know what else to say’, but benefits from a much more haunting and affecting melody than most of their recent stuff. It’s like a song Pavement would sing if they broke up with their girlfriends and had to console themselves in a 50s bar. Lo-fi melancholy at its best.


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