Forgotten Albums: Jane Siberry, No Borders Here

Over the past four weeks I participated in a class called Course Design Institute, offered via Spalding University and under the auspices of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU, for short). Roughly forty colleagues from across the state, including ten or so from my institution, learned alongside me about best practices in setting up online courses, you know, just in case. It was very much a worthwhile endeavor; our instructor shared many valuable insights and resources, and I’m already putting a good bit of it into practice as I prepare for the coming school year. Even though current plans call for as much face-to-face interaction as possible, I’m expecting to be doing plenty of classroom-flipping in most of my courses.

Our instructor’s first name–which I’ll reveal down the way–isn’t all that common, and is one that always makes me think of a song on a fine but obscure album from 1984, Jane Siberry’s No Borders Here. I’ve written some about Siberry before, featuring tracks from her 1988 disk The Walking a couple of years ago. No Borders Here was her second album, the one that began to get her noticed in her native Canada. It’s plenty arty–there’s a reason why she was promoted as being in the vein of Kate Bush–with lots of word play and abundant shifts in time signature, tempo, and rhythm. The production is competent but not as lavish as she would receive on future recordings. One of my bridge-playing friends at Illinois put me on to No Borders Here; since I already knew about The Walking, that wasn’t a hard sell, and it quickly became the album of Siberry’s I most consistently enjoy. Here are a few of the choicest cuts (though one of my faves isn’t available on its own on YouTube).

The album kicks off with “The Waitress.” You get a good idea of what you’re in for from the get-go. Most memorable line: “I’d probably be famous now if I wasn’t such a good waitress.”

Next is “I Muse Aloud,” whose narrator takes the odd position that she “fill(s) (her boyfriend) up with so much love” that he has no option but to fall for the girls he meets while out and about.

After treats like “Dancing Class” (about a woman who takes lessons for many years) and “Extra Executives” (in which a salesman’s behavior gets compared to that of a grouper fish), we get “Symmetry (The Way Things Have To Be).” Just remember: “You can’t chop down the symmetry.” The poster of the video on YouTube indicates these scenes come from Dames, a 1934 flick choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

And our last feature is my favorite, a track that reached #68 on the Canadian charts. “Mimi on the Beach” is also the song that’s been on my mind this past month as I’ve gone through my class. Great lines: “I stand and scan on this strand of sand;” “She’s checking out her arms and legs/In case her casing’s getting burned.”

Many thanks to Prof. O’Malley for her feedback and help–I hope I can translate the experience into good things for my students.

You can find a link to the entire album here. Twenty-seven minutes in is “Follow Me,” a real charmer that I wish I could have more easily shared.

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