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PRINT December 1994

MUSIC

HOWARD HAMPTON

We’ll Always Have Paris

Lourdes, 8 July 1940: a refugee sensing fate closing in around him, Walter Benjamin writes Hannah Arendt and ruefully quotes an aphorism that will shortly be an epitaph: “His laziness supported him in glory for many years in the obscurity of an errant and hidden life.” “This ain’t Paris,” mutters Babylon Dance Band singer Chip Nold on the group’s belated debut (Matador), “It’s not the 19th century.” This incandescent one-shot reunion recorded over a decade after their break-up offers “errant and hidden life” as pure revel (and reverie). Desperation is Nold’s text, mode, salvation: singing as someone who may never get another chance to be heard, he turns every phrase into final reckoning, secret glory. With Tara Key orchestrating the songs at once as guitar goddess and one-woman answer to Phil Spector (taking BACK TO MONOTHEISM for her jealous motto),

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