Like Horses In The City

This morning while I was getting ready for work, I had a somewhat random thought as I sometimes do.  Maybe I should listen to that Nina Gordon debut album, as it’s been a while since I heard it.  “Tonight And The Rest Of My Life,” has a certain very Nathanish way about it, and listening to it reminded me once again of why I think so highly of this album and why it fits in with distinctive albums I have talked about here before from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s [1].  What similarities does this album have with other albums I appreciate.  For one, it is an underappreciated gem, an album that sold about 300,000 copies in the United States but never cracked the top half of the album charts, and that had three singles, none of which charted on the Hot 100.  Beyond this, the album deals with painful self-reflection, and that is a theme that I can wholeheartedly endorse and apparently was already on board with even as a teen and young adult, given the albums that I find so quintessentially Nathanish.

One aspect that makes an album great is its sequencing.  Here is where Nina Gordon and her producer Bob Rock did a great job setting the album up for success.  The album begins with an upbeat song about love, which is always a bad sign.  Happiness in love makes for a good ending but an ominous beginning, and so it proves here, as the singer continues the album with the aching “2003,” my favorite song from the album, and with the title track with its pensive mood.  Things rapidly get far more gloomy, though, as “Badway” finds the singer driving everyone away and “Horses In The City,” another standout track from the album, finds her insomniatic and gloomy about feeling out of place.  “Hold On To Me” is a realistic song about a relationship on its last legs, and “New Year’s Eve” shows the singer alone when everyone else is kissing and flirting.  “Fade To Black” shows Gordon reflecting on her own mistakes, while “Number One Camera” is upbeat but clearly looking back on a relationship that is already over.  The rest of the song then moves in a downbeat direction with “Got Me Down,” “Too Slow To Ride,” “Hate Your Way,” and a stellar cover, “The End Of The World,” which compares the end of a relationship to an apocalyptic scene.

This is not an album I would recommend as family friendly.  “Now I Can Die” shows the singer-songwriter bragging that her lover tries on all her clothes but not her underwear, and “Number One Camera” talks about the two of them sharing perfume and posing in the nude.  We are not dealing with morally upright people.  Nina Gordon doesn’t whitewash her life or perspective and makes it clear that she is not a moral exemplar.  The album as a whole reads like Gordon had idolized someone and put them on a pedestal as far as a relationship goes, and when then the relationship broke up, she faced a personal crisis as a result.  This crisis was no joke.  Nina Gordon found herself kicked out of Veruca Salt, the band she had started with, and her furious ex-bandmate Louise Post wrote quite a few nasty songs about her on their next album, the inaptly titled “Resolver.”  Gordon’s solo career found her working through much more reflective territory than had been the case before, as she appears to be one of those people who have few but important relationships.  Her crisis causes her to lose sleep, become alienated from those she was close to, and even question her relationship with God, while seeing the demise of her personal life in apocalyptic terms.

It is the mournful and reflective moments of this album that hit home the closest for me.  “2003” shows Nina Gordon wondering if her beloved will wait for her, promising to be true to him however long it takes for her to become free from whatever has chained her to an unhappy past–it doesn’t appear to be a marriage, but it could be something else.  “Fade To Black” finds the singer gloomily reflecting that she can’t undo what was done or make the past return, and that there is no way to prove that she loves the one she has lost.  “Horses In The City” hits particularly hard, though, as the lonely and sleepless singer compares herself to the out-of-place horses that drive carriages along busy city streets, while she wonders if she will ever sing again or feel again or have a good night’s sleep again.  As someone who suffers terrible sleep and has always felt out of place, this song definitely hits close to home, as does the album as a whole, with its simultaneous unpleasant personal honesty about one’s shortcomings and struggles as well as its intense and complicated emotional palette.

Perhaps it would be good to note that the rest of the story has been a relatively happy one.  While Gordon shelved her next album, she re-used many of its songs for her next album “Broken Heart Graffiti” and ended up reuniting with Post in Veruca Salt and recording an EP and an album with the original lineup since 2013.  Whatever her personal life is, she has made some great art and shown herself tenacious in rebuilding friendships that seemed to be lost, setting a good example that many of us (myself included) could stand to emulate.  And although her career is certainly an obscure one, in “Tonight And The Rest Of My Life” she made a thoughtful and reflective and spirited album that captures a singer-songwriter of unsparing personal honesty and a willingness to confront her own share of the blame in the mess of relationships that she had made.  Perhaps her willingness to confront herself and her searing personal honesty made it possible for her to rebuild what was lost in the past as she did, and perhaps that should give hope for others who are just as out of place as horses in the city.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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