I downloaded plenty of MP3s from Napster back in 1999/2000. Napster allowed me to branch out from the musical selections you may expect of any awkward teenage boy, namely lots of They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, and Crash Test Dummies. One of those MP3s was Sylvie from Saint Etienne’s Good Humor.
Sylvie has a 60s gogo meets disco vibe that caught my ear. I don’t remember why I downloaded it, but I was downloading a few New Order tracks, a few Groove Armada tracks, stuff you could dance to.1 I must have read somebody else’s gushing over Good Humor.
When you’re a teenager it’s as if there are expectations of what you should listen to. I remember going to a CD store with some friends, probably an FYE or Sam Goody’s—we didn’t have indie record stores where we grew up—and looked at Daft Punk’s Homework. “You buy that and we can’t be friends anymore,” a friend of mine told me. I think he was joking. He was going through a Bob Dylan phase, almost the opposite end of the spectrum. He later denied saying that, saying he would never make fun of anybody’s music tastes. That was probably a lie.
Good Humor is very different from a lot of the music I listened to at the time, which may be why I consider it one of the most important albums I have in my collection. I didn’t own much music with a woman singer, much less songs sung from a woman’s perspective.2 And while I love nearly every song on this album, what it represents for me is something greater. Good Humor is when I stopped caring about what other people thought about the music I loved and realized that the only opinion that really should matter to me was my own.
If I had given into the peer pressure I may eventually have come to love jam bands and Bob Dylan, but it just never happened.
I eventually replaced that Sylvie mp3 with an iTunes Store copy, buying the rest of the album with it. It’s still in the old iTunes DRM format. As of this writing you can’t even buy Good Humor on iTunes and Amazon MP3. However, it looks like Sub-Pop is rereleasing it in a deluxe edition…someday.
|6||Lose That Girl||★★★★|
|7||The Bad Photographer||★★★★|
|8||Been So Long||★★★|
It occurs to me now that downloading music back then wasn’t like today when you might grab a torrent of an entire artist’s discography. These were dialup days…a few mp3s now, a few mp3s later. ↩
Cracknell sings “Sylvie girl, although you’re my little sister, well, you’re not without your charms. I’m not sure that he’ll resist you.” Before then most lyrics I knew went something like “the Spiraling Shape will make you go insaaaaane” or “How does a duck know what direction south is?” ↩