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Baker's Dozen

True Pairings: Tom Fleming's 13 Favourite Albums
Ben Hewitt , September 25th, 2019 12:16

Former Wild Beast Tom Fleming, who's just released his excellent debut album as One True Pairing, picks the 13 records that shaped him, from Tool and Def Leppard to Scott Walker and Joanna Newsom


Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love

It’s not his best album but it’s my favourite, and definitely the biggest influence on what I’m doing now. He’s gone in for that big 80s land sound, he’s got a LinnDrum and all the big synths, but it’s a personal record, and lyrically it’s got as much teeth as Nebraska. I think it was quite a controversial record because it didn’t have the E Street Band – it didn’t have Clarence Clemons, for fucks sake! – and there are a couple of experiments that don’t quite work. But I think the core of it, especially songs like ‘Brilliant Disguise’ or ‘Two Faces’, are top-end Springsteen in terms of what he’s talking about, all that macho guilt and trying to be a better man. They’re more grown-up concerns, which I like, and they helped to guide the One True Pairing stuff to where it needed to be.

I’ve got an old friend who almost literally listens only to Springsteen who kept saying I had to listen to Tunnel Of Love. Eventually I did, and thought ‘Okay, now I see.’ It’s not a cool record – you can get away with Darkness On The Edge Of Town, that’s cool, and maybe these days you can just about get away with Born In The USA – but this isn’t one of the cool ones. But it’s a true record of where he was at the time, with a willingness to do something different even when he was the biggest artist in the world. There are things you have to have a reckoning with when you listen to Springsteen, a lot of end-of-the-pier America references you’ve got to get used to. But if you dig past that there’s a lot of stuff about manly pain, which I like. And I think where I am now in terms of my own [coughs] career – excuse me, I nearly vomited – but he’s coming to this as an older man, wrestling with what he does musically and in his life, and I find that quite resonant. He’s obviously got bored of slogans and big sounds – although it’s still Springsteen, he’s not made a Jandek record – and it has a personalness and a smallness to it.