Bop Or Not: Fine Young Cannibals “Johnny Come Home”

Fine Young Cannibals – Johnny Come Home

Does it make sense to rank songs? Of course not. Ranking art is an inherently silly thing, one in which we constantly cannot help but assume that our own preferences are in fact artistic and universal truths. So much of the internet could be avoided if we managed to get past our inability to acknowledge the inherent subjectivity of art. With that out of the way, let’s play another round of Bop Or Not.

I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, I agree. The Fine Young Cannibals did achieve musical perfection with “She Drives Me Crazy” a song that literally could not be any better than it already is. The song’s clincher is its absolutely massive hook and Roland Gift‘s delivery of it.

Gift’s voice is as unique as they come. It is impossible to imagine confusing his warbling, higher-pitched-than-expected delivery with anybody else before or since. Except that “higher-pitched-than-expected” might not quite be the right way to describe what Gift is doing with his voice.

But this isn’t about “She Drives Me Crazy,” a song from the band’s second album, The Raw And The Cooked. This is about “Johnny Come Home,” a song from the band’s debut album, one very creatively titled Fine Young Cannibals. Here is an actual transcript from the decision to title the album:

“What are we gonna call our first album”
“Album!”
“Record!”
“Album Record!”

*Long Pause*

“Record Album!”
“Cmon guys. Something creative.”
“Okay, fine, how about the name of the band?”
“NAILED IT!”

Anyway, that first album featured “Johnny Come Home,” a weird little track featuring a heavy bass line, a muted trumpet, and Gift’s alway odd delivery. Here we have a perfectly good song: listenable, memorable, fun.

But folks: this song is not a bop.

The original rules of Bop Or Not made it clear that the song had to make you want to get up out of your seat to dance, even if you didn’t actually do so. This song just doesn’t achieve that (even if its wonderfully cheap video does feature some truly remarkable…uhh…dancing). I have a sneaking suspicion that the thing holding this song back from Bop-dom is its hook, which just isn’t big enough.

The “She Drives Me Crazy” hook is just about the biggest thing in music.

Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy (1989)

And perhaps that is the precise reason that the band never got any bigger than it did with this particular track. “She Drives Me Crazy” hit a perfect balance of the group’s odd sound and going all out when it really mattered. “Johnny Come Home” exists several evolutionary steps behind it; a great song, and an impressive achievement, but not a Bop.

 


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13 thoughts on “Bop Or Not: Fine Young Cannibals “Johnny Come Home”

  1. I agree that “She Drives Me Crazy” pretty much hits perfection. “Good Thing”, also from the same album, is very close. It’s hard for me to say why, but I agree that “Johnny Come Home” lacks bop. There’s a lot of very good things happening in that track.

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    • I once wrote a movie review of something – Ocean’s Eleven maybe? – where I gave it a 7/10 and people were aghast, as if that was insufficiently celebratory. In retrospect, it is probably slightly better than that. To me, “Johnny Come Home” is a very, very, very good song that still isn’t a bop. This isn’t me indicating that I don’t love the song. I do. But a bop is a bop and this ain’t a bop.

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  2. “She Drives Me Crazy” is good…but perfect? Nah. There’s a little less substance in the verses than there needs to be. In the first verse, it’s not noticeable because of the unique vocals, but by the second verse it creates a lull. In the third verse, they’ve added a guitar lick.

    I’ll give you another song that falls short of perfection, but this one because there’s too little substance in the chorus: Runnin’ Down A Dream, by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

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  3. I’m impressed that we’ve talked about Fine Young Cannibals for this long and haven’t mentioned their cover of “Suspicious Minds” that put them on the map. With the (enormous) help of the video, all the salient facts regarding FYC were established, to wit: 1) Roland Gift’s vocal genius, 2) Roland Gift’s outrageous handsomeness. I say this as someone who phreeked out heavily on both of that band’s records—they achieved something remarkable without being a very good band.

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  4. I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, I agree. The Fine Young Cannibals did achieve musical perfection with “She Drives Me Crazy” a song that literally could not be any better than it already is. The song’s clincher is its absolutely massive hook and Roland Gift‘s delivery of it.

    Really? It’s always struck me as fairly run-of-the-mill. I don’t even know what hook you’re talking about.

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