by Carl Wilson
Babble: Songs for Lonely Lovers is a concept album (based on or the basis of a musical) by the late British rock songwriter Kevin Coyne and German singer Dagmar Krause (perhaps best known as a member of Slapphappy), recorded in 1979. It’s the depiction of a relationship for which the word “troubled” would be much too mild – Coyne intimated here and there that it may have been inspired by child-murdering lovers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, though I don’t think it needs such macabre embellishment to do its work with a chilling sparsity and intensity of purpose – to evoke the perils of intimacy at their most harrowing.
Given that, it’s not entirely surprising that the album’s been adopted as kind of a cause by another bard of brutal closeness, Will Oldham, first by covering a couple of songs on a Portugese single, then in an appreciation for Mojo Magazine, and finally with a full-blown tribute band, The Babblers. (You can hear their vocalist Angel Olsen cover “Come Down Here” here or watch them do it starting at about 1:30 here.) His most powerful cover is probably of the album’s opening track, “Are You Deceiving Me?”
But nothing can eclipse the original Babble, despite its obscurity and general neglect. It should be alongside Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, the Thompsons’ Shoot Out the Lights and the Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee as records that throw into serious doubt how wise it is for humans to get to know each other too deeply. As Oldham put it, “the transference of horror (at ourselves) into music has not been done so well. It’s a record that fully reverberates the fear.”