Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean

12 Dec

Iron and Wine‘s fourth studio album, Kiss Each Other Clean, is poppier than prior work, however continues to present Sam Beam’s unique narrative imagery in its lyrics.

The album was titled after a line in “Your Fake Name is good enough for Me”, a saxophone-rich jazz track that cynically speaks (among other things) of the brutality of modern urban life, and the often-fickle nature of those who live it. Of the lyric “kiss each other clean”, Beam remarks to “”It insinuates that shit is wrong and that we’re not clean… but at the same time we’re doing something about it.”* The song, halfway through, dissolves into a slowed-down, melodically-repetitive montage of images of all the things to be represented by the urban youth of today, each metaphor encased in the repeated “we will become, become…”. The repetitive melodic structure of this cornucopia of lyrical images seems to pick up on both the personal homogeneity and the temporal repetetivity faced by the postmodern urban-dwelling youth.

Beam’s lyrics – littered with Biblical references and, in places, constructed purely from imagery (as opposed to interpretation) – continue to tell a new story (or set of stories) with each song. “Tree by the River” is the narrative of a man addressing an old lover, Mary-Ann, about the relationship they had when they were seventeen, and how things have changed since then. The narrator’s tone is both reminiscent and contemplative, and the major key of the song calmly waves aside the generic mournfulness often inherent to such nostalgic numbers.

Whilst most of the album is embellished with saxophone riffs and very obviously jazz-influenced, “Godless Brother in Love” is an exquisite layering of piano-arpeggios and each-note-noticeably-strummed guitar chords (as well as rawly-recorded vocal harmonies) straying back into Iron and Wine’s original folk style.

Also closer to Iron and Wine’s earlier music is “Walking far from Home”: “an account of a guy walking far from home, what he sees and experiences… surreal and beautiful and sad all at the same time”*. This track carries a weary feel, and could easily be played in one of the sad bits at the end of House (wait, that sounds familiar…).

Iron and Wine’s lyrics, as aforementioned, continue, despite any musical deviation, to present a patchwork of  meaningful narratives and images – often avoiding overt interpretation thereof, and hence leaving the listener to construct their own understanding of the lyrics – enforcing the value of each track as its own cryptic, adaptable story as well a piece within a collection.


2 Responses to “Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean”


  1. The Suspicious Old Men In Vans Emporium called. They want their elephant suits back. « As of yet Untitled - 29 December 2011

    […] two good tracks. “Us against the World”, for example, would probably make a beautiful Iron and Wine cover. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  2. Iron and Wine: Ghost on Ghost | As of yet Untitled - 19 December 2013

    […] vibrant, sax-heavy jazz sound that Sam Beam brought into Kiss Each Other Clean flows smoothly over into Ghost on Ghost, burgeoning in some places and in others all but […]

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