366 Songs 259: He’d Be A Diamond

I love love songs that aren’t actually love songs. Does that make sense? Songs that are filled with affection and adoration and love but which don’t profess “I love you” or speak to traditional romantic relationships. “He’d Be A Diamond” is one of those for me, and one of my favorite songs of all time, a warning between friends about a boyfriend who may not be the best, with everything both intimate and ambiguous. Is the singer warning the listener away from getting back with an ex – “Is he lying/To get what he wants/Or does he mean it this time?” – or trying to persuade them to give it one more chance? “And though you feel like shit/He says you look beautiful,” after all.

The version I heard first was the Teenage Fanclub cover – It’s originally a Beavis Frond song, as heard at the top of the post – but my favorite version is probably Mary Lou Lord’s, who manages to make the intimacy and friendliness of the whole thing even more apparent. Plus, for some reason, the line about “Is he running/Low on affection/And beer and dope/And an ironing board/And an unpaid analyst who shags?” seems so much funnier coming from her.

366 Songs 233: I Figured You Out

Dismissed by Elliott Smith as a “silly pop song” that he wrote in five minutes and discarded, “I Figured You Out” becomes something different in the hands of Mary Lou Lord; it’s both lighter in tone – Lord’s vocals lack the flatness and melancholy of Smith’s, after all – and somehow more sad as a result. There’s a wistfulness and vulnerability in her voice that makes the whole thing seem more harsher, as if she’s less prepared to sing lines like “So go on and pick up/You don’t care what poison you choose/What person you use/Should’ve been me, yeah/Shouldn’t it be?”

Sadness always sounds worse coming from an unexpected source.