Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"Sign Your Name" ... Once You Decide On A Name, Slender Soul Boy

Let this much be said about Terence Trent D'arby: the man was not afraid of coming off as ridiculous. From Wikipedia:
Terence Trent D'Arby was born Terence Trent Howard in Manhattan in 1962. His mother is Frances Howard, a gospel singer teacher and counselor; she married Bishop James Benjamin Darby, who became his stepfather and raised him, hence "his last name changed and later he completed it with the apostrophe."
Hold on a second. Hold the phone. You mean to tell me the apostrophe ... was not originally part of his name? Who adds an apostrophe to their name? Just for the hell of it? I ask you! You know what? I've made a decision. I shall henceforth be known as "L'ittle Earl."

Watching his videos, one realizes that D'arby may have been skinnier than Calista Flockhart, but believe it or not, the guy was once a professional boxer (!):
He trained as a boxer in Orlando and in 1980 won the Florida Golden Gloves lightweight championship. He received an offer to attend boxing school in the United States Army, but he went to college instead. He enrolled at the University of Central Florida but quit a year later, enlisting in the U.S. Army. He was posted at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and then served in the 3rd Armored Division, near Frankfurt, West Germany. He was formally court-martialed and dishonorably discharged by the army in April 1983 after going absent without leave.
So, let me get this straight: he landed a spot in the army, but decided to attend college instead ... and then he dropped out of college to join the army ... only to go AWOL? And I thought I was a confused young man. To make a long story short, he released his debut album Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby in 1987, famously claiming that it was the most important album since Sgt. Pepper. Well I'm sure it was the most important album since Sgt. Pepper ... to him. Possibly even more important. What I want to know is, in the mind of Terence Trent D'Arby, what exactly was it about the album that made it quite that "important"? Probably the apostrophe. And what precisely is the "hardline"? Where can I find the softline?

At any rate, no mercurial '80s self-contained R&B genius's career arc would have been complete without a bizarre name change, and D'Arby didn't d'isappoint:
He adopted a new Buddhist name, Sananda Maitreya, which he has said relates to a series of dreams he had in 1995, though it does not appear that he has spent much time in India. He legally changed his name six years later on October 4, 2001, explaining, "Terence Trent D'Arby was dead ... he watched his suffering as he died a noble death. After intense pain I meditated for a new spirit, a new will, a new identity."
Hey man, do what you gotta do.

D'arby occupies an intriguing spot on the R&B sp'ectrum. He's part-Stevie Wonder, part-James Brown ... with a touch of MJ, a dash of Prince, even a pinch of ... Sade? If I suggest that he anticipated early '90s neo-soul, do I sound like I know what I'm talking about? He was like the proto-Kravitz, or the proto-Seal. Milli Vanilli may have stolen his hair.

"Wishing Well" (not to be confused with Go West's "The King of Wishful Thinking") was the album's biggest US hit, peaking at #1, but it's not really my favorite single of his. In just the first few seconds, D'arby sets off my Affected Singing Alert with his delivery of lines like "undah-neath the sycamoh tuh-raaaay-uh" and a lyric that surely isn't "erotic and my jizz flow through my hair" but definitely sounds like it. It's like he's flashing a giant neon sign outside my hotel window that says "SOULFUL" -  and I'm trying to sleep, pal! The recurring "imitation whistle" synth riff makes the song sound like something Stromboli would have forced Pinocchio to dance to merrily while being held captive against his will.

For me, it's all about "Sign Your Name," a D'arby song that I might actually play late at night while attempting to fall asleep. The album's opening track, "If You All Get to Heaven," may have included the lyric "Say a prayer for my camel as I ride through the desert," but "Sign Your Name" is the actual sound of Terence Trent D'arby riding his camel through the fucking desert. Yes, this is another linchpin of the Summer of '88's "Egyptian Thing," one that is perhaps even more Egyptian than "Father Figure" or "Nite and Day." The track flows along languidly on a bed of congas, cowbells, minor key synth chords (the opening progression reminds me a bit of Bob Marley's "Is This Love"), and Nefertiti kisses.

But as a kid, I couldn't stand "Sign Your Name." I remember hearing it repeatedly during the Summer of '88 (it peaked at #4), and finding it ... weird, and annoying. First of all, I couldn't figure out what he was saying in the chorus. I thought the lyric was "Cyanade across my heart/I want you to be my lady." You know, "cyanade"? Like a combination of cyanide and lemonade? Hey, it could have been a thing. I was also irritated that the lyrics in the chorus didn't really rhyme; I kept expecting a counterpart to "heart," but he merely repeats it, rhyming "lady" with "baby" instead.

Twenty years passed. Egyptian dynasties rose and fell, like so many birds looking into the sun. When I finally heard the song again, I realized how sadly underdeveloped my eight-year-old taste in music had been. Now I'm into "Sign Your Name" about as heavily as D'arby was into random name changes. For a supposed "80s R&B ballad," it oozes an eerie, surreal atmosphere, particularly thanks to the swirling, Beatle-esque string section that pops up around the bridge, rendering the artist's Sgt. Pepper comparisons not entirely absurd (and did "Strawberry Fields" ever feature a layer of silky smooth doo-wop backing vocals?). I do roll my eyes slightly at D'arby's melismatic, Wonder-licious "Hey-eyyy-aaayy-aaayy!" at 3:55, but, you know, when you've envisioned a song this beguiling, you've kind of earned the right to let your inner Stevie loose.

In the video, D'arby comes off less like a Prince wannabe and more like a young Marlon Brando who accidentally found himself trapped inside Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy. He's the bad boy motorcycle rebel with a bohemian, sensitive side. He'll stare down rival suitors in a bar ... and then bring a teddy bear home to the daughter of that hot single mom. All I'm saying is, if he ever wants joint custody of that girl, he better be prepared to sign his name.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Zrbo Reviews: VNV Nation's Noire

It's been five years since futurepop mavens VNV Nation released a studio album. Much has happened in that time, both for the band and in the world at large. The band released Resonance, an orchestral album of some of their biggest hits, followed by tours throughout Europe accompanied by a classical orchestra. More recently the band announced the departure of drummer Mark Jackson, meaning the pretense of the band as a duo, drummer Mark Jackson and frontman Ronan Harris, had finally dissolved. The band had always been Harris's creation anyway, with Jackson serving as a sort of wingman. The ground was set for a new era of VNV Nation.

In those five years the world changed too. Gone are the days of a perceived bright sunny Obama-led future, when Osama bin Laden had been defeated and the world looked to have pulled itself up from a Great Recession. That feeling has been replaced with the fracturing Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the rise in nationalism, the weakening of alliances, and the realization that our democratic institutions aren't as strong as we thought.

This all brings us to Noire, the tenth studio album by VNV Nation. As the album title makes clear, Noire is a darker affair. The wistful longings for a perfect future have been replaced with dour warnings of impending doom. Whereas on 2011's Automatic Harris sang an upbeat song called "Gratitude", Noire contains numerous worries about the end of days.

Now, don't be mistaken, because VNV have long flirted with the idea of the eschatological. The 2000 remix album Burning Empires gave us the song "Further" which pondered: "At the end of days, at the end of time/When the sun burns out, will any of this matter?", and Futureperfect's "Carbon" asked "In 10,000 years, what will be our legacy?". Noire makes the danger feel more immediate - more a matter of decades rather than millenia.

Noire marks many firsts for the band. It's the first VNV Nation album that doesn't feature the band's iconic torch and flame logo on the cover. At thirteen tracks it's their longest album to date, and at just shy of 74 minutes nearly exhausts the amount a CD can fit. Regarding album structure, this is the first VNV album to eschew an instrumental or spoken word intro track. And where the band would usually end each album with a track that pulls the themes of the album together in some uplifting and anthemic way (see "Perpetual", "Where there is Light", and "Radio" to name a few), here the final song is aggressive and chilling in its urgency.

At times Noire recalls VNV's early albums, such as Advance & Follow or Praise the Fallen. Many of the songs are also lyrically dense, bringing back a lyrical complexity that more recent albums have at times skimped on. The production is superb. Noire is at times a dark, brutal beast, but at other times contains some of the most delicious melodies the band has ever produced. There's also a sense that Harris is toying with the acoustics more, something perhaps inspired by his time working on the orchestral Resonance project. And, while it almost sounds obvious, given this is the band's 10th album, and with Harris approaching elder-statesmanhood in the genre, there's an overwhelming sense of maturity to be found here.

Let's dive in.


The album begins with the menacing "A Million". Over a foreboding drone Harris begins with an intonation of something resembling a prophecy or prayer telling of a coming end. The track morphs from there utilizing a steady beat. There's an interesting callback lyrically to "Teleconnect (Part 2)", the final track from the previous album Transnational, where Harris sang of finally fighting his demons. Here at the beginning of Noire he suggests the fight continues with the lines: "I know you too well and I know you by name/I fought you, I defeated you time and again". The final lines of "A Million" offer a glimmer of hope that love will conquer all, but in contrast to the rest of the song they feel almost unearned.

The first time I heard "A Million" I was a bit caught off guard - not only is it not a typical VNV instrumental opener, it's the complete opposite: a dark club track with gloomy lyrics fortelling the end of days. After repeated listens though it's really grown on me, and it's nice to see the band break out of it's typical introductory formula.

The album then shifts gears and gives us "Armour". Harris sure does love British spellings (see "Honour" and "Colours of Rain"). Alongside some perky synths Harris sings of donning his metaphorical armor when he tires of the world. That may sound a bit cheesy, but Harris has always had a certain earnestness in his voice that helps sell his lyrics, and I absolutely love the lyrics here.

"Armour" also experiments with acoustics, or more specifically the sound of Harris's voice. I had seen the song performed live (on YouTube) before the album was released and so I had a certain expectation of how it would sound on the album. But here Harris has unexpectedly done something to his vocals that make them sound like they're floating above the music, almost a little dream-like. There's also a deliberate stiltedness in his delivery, note how in the opening when he sings "when I falter when I tire/of a world that leaves me cold inside" the slight pause between the two lines.

At first I thought these were odd choices but after a few listens I've warmed up to them and now "Armour" is quite possibly one of my favorite songs in the band's entire catalog. It's like candy to my ears and at just over four minutes it feels like every second is utilized perfectly. There's also a lot of well used VNV references that will sound familiar to long time fans (e.g., tempests, mortals, being lost at sea), which help give it the makings of a VNV classic.

"God of All" follows and brings back that similar drumbeat from Automatic finale "Radio", the one I described as "despite being unrelentingly thumping, has a surprising amount of bounce to it". There's always been a slight mystery as to what Harris's religious leanings are (ex-Catholic? Atheist? perhaps Buddhist?) and "God of All" seems to directly address that relationship. The chorus, in keeping with the theme of the album, seems to suggest we've lost our way. This track has excellent placement coming right after the energizing "Armour", and stands as one of my favorites.

"Nocturne No. 7" functions as a palette cleanser and could be seen as marking the end of the first act of the album. This piece is obviously inspired by Harris's time with Resonance as we get a quiet, meditative, piano piece - it's like being at a somber piano recital. It's beautiful but at over six minutes it's perhaps a big of an indulgence on Harris's part.

"Collide" is next and follows wonderfully in that VNV tradition of the quiet, slowly building ballad that we've seen before with songs such as "Endless Skies" or "Secluded Spaces". "Collide" has an acoustic bigness, a depth to it, again demonstrating how much Ronan has learned from his time with Resonance. It starts off slow and introspective, transitions into something Vangelis-like in the middle, and turns into a full-on heart pounding ballad by the end. There's also the introduction of a sort of dreamy 80s synth that will return later in the album. I love the production on this one. At this point in his career Harris is just an ace at making these kinds of ballads and I'm not sure how he's ever going to top this one.

Next up is "Wonders", a mid-tempo number with a dreamy 80s feel. The synth has an almost vaporwave sound to it. Harris has great delivery on this one. It's like a melancholy Erasure song or even Pet Shop Boys. My only critique is that the opening line about about memories playing "like films on the wall" is nearly identical to the one expressed in 2005's "Arena" ("Before me plays the endless film").

"Immersed" and "Lights Go Out" share the role of the obligatory VNV album industrial dance floor-filler (see "Chrome", "Control", or Transnational's "Retaliate") and do their job admirably. "Immersed" takes a while to get going and, while it does have a fast beat, it's almost like a slow burn where before you know it you're immersed in the dance (pun intended). It ends somewhat abruptly but that works in its favor. There's echoes of Nitzer Ebb in its barking "Give me love" refrain.

"Lights Go Out" begins (and ends) with repeated air horn blasts but then dives immediately into another strong dance number. It's the song on the album with the most artifice - here Harris inhabits the role of a fictional character dancing in a nightclub during the world's end (at the fictional Club Vertigo). Despite that, the song has a nice grit to it, like it's something that would be playing in the basement of some dance club at the end of the world. In fact, I swear I've heard this very song playing in some nightclub at some point. It's like a revved up version of The Cure's "One Hundred Years". There's some fun lines here like: "Out with the old war, in with the new/dressed to the nines/atomic chic looks so good on you". I appreciate that it's a svelte four minutes long - it gets in, does its job, and gets out.

"Guiding" marks what could be seen as the end of the album's second act. Again, it's an instrumental, but this time it has more electronic elements to it (but still no beat). It reminds of "As It Fades" from 2007's Judgement. There's a bit of that dreamy 80s sounds again.

"When is the Future" brings back the energy in perhaps the most most straightforward track on the album. This one sounds the most like VNV and could have come from nearly any album of theirs from the past 15 years. That's not meant as a dis - this is a very confident track and feels almost effortless. It's got some of that electro-harpsichord we haven't heard since Automatic's "Space & Time". I love the lyrics and delivery on this one. In another VNV first we get the band's first official music video, where we follow the back of Ronan's head as he wanders around Tokyo.

"Only Satellites" is a fun, poppy song. It's got a strong pump-your-fist-along-to-the-beat/we-can-prevail feel. On a more positive album this would have been the album closer.

"Requiem for Wires" marks the end of the album's third act. A third and final beatless instrumental that recalls maybe the instrumental "PTF2012" from Praise the Fallen, or maybe even the hidden untitled track from the same album (remember when albums had hidden tracks?). This song reminds me strongly of music by Disasterpeace, especially something like the song "Compass".

The album ends on the monumental denouement of "All Our Sins", and boy what a doozy. In keeping with the album's theme, "All Our Sins" sounds like the final song you might hear before armageddon. The closest antecedent that I can think of comes from way back on VNV's first album: the Gaelic tinged "Amhran Comhrac". Maybe this is due to the song's unusual rhythm. It reminds me of VNV's early work but with a much more modern polish and production. The song starts off intense and just ramps up the bombast from there. It's also the albums longest song, clocking over seven minutes in length. It ends in a long orchestral crescendo, complete with timpani drums and blaring horns. I lamented in my review of Resonance that for orchestral renditions of VNV's songs they didn't sound big or grand enough as I'd have liked. This is like Ronan Harris's response to that criticism, giving me a big middle finger and going as big as possible. I'm not sure it's necessarily my preferred song on the album, but it's certainly memorable.


After consistently putting out albums every two years from 2005-2013 and after my mild disappointment with 2013's Transnational I had hoped that Ronan Harris might take some time off and find some new inspiration to draw upon. It seems the inspiration came to him, as the world changed significantly in the intervening years, and Noire feels like a response to that. As a long time fan, it was a long wait, but what we've ended with is a near masterpiece. Most bands put out their best work in their first few albums and then produce facsimiles of that sound for the rest of their days, rarely reaching those heights again. VNV Nation seems to work in the opposite direction, aging like a fine wine, or perhaps more appropriately a fine whiskey. Their albums on the whole just get better and better with each new release.

Noire occasionally zigs when I expected it to zag. It delivers a bleak message, but one that presents the tiniest bit of hope. For the entire duration of VNV Nation Ronan Harris has been delivering the message that if we just work together, we can build a better future. With Noire Harris is telling us that our time has come, that either we take this last chance to act now, or we let it all crumble to dust.

4.75/5 Zrbo points

Sunday, October 14, 2018

"I Get Weak," But Frothy Belinda Power Ballads Give Me Strength AKA When Two Dianes Collide

In the Random House Unofficial Guide to '80s Pop Stardom (woe to the aspiring Yuppie Rocker who failed to carry a copy), there must have been a sentence along these lines, somewhere on - or at least near - the front page: "If you're going to dive into the shamelessly slick, radio-friendly, songwriter-for-hire waters of the music business ... you better go all in." This, my friends, is what late '80s Belinda Carlisle understood so well. And so it was that Belinda, like a sailor in a brothel on shore leave, tried out every L.A. tunesmith she could get her hands on - and which is how she became the next recipient of the golden touch of one Dianne Warren, who, by 1988, was riding high on the glories of "Rhythm of the Night" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (and had yet to bless us with such Macy's Fitting Room classics as "If I Could Turn Back Time," "Because You Loved Me," "Un-Break My Heart," and "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing"). From Lips Unsealed:
Then the great songwriter Dianne Warren came into the studio one day and played me "I Get Weak." Few people know the quality of Dianne's voice; it's gravelly and soulful and always moves me. "I Get Weak" was a perfect example. As she sang the final chorus, I literally felt weak myself.
Quick, someone fetch Belinda her smelling salts!

"I Get Weak" is one of those late '80s hits that has always just kinda sorta been "around," but, unlike its predecessor in the Belinda discography, has never, as far as I'm aware, become an object of kitsch or nostalgia or has in any way taken on further cultural significance. That said, it was arguably Belinda's second biggest solo hit, at least in the US, where it peaked at #2 (it hit #10 in the UK), kept out of the top spot by "Never Gonna Give You Up," which, as a few YouTube commentators have suggested, possibly makes Belinda the first person to ever be Rickrolled? Personally, I used to have a challenging time dissecting the lyrics of the chorus, originally hearing it as "I Can't Weep," or even the more nonsensical "I Can't Wheat." Perhaps it was an anthem for the gluten-intolerant? Maybe Belinda was an early pioneer for dietary justice. Talk about an unheralded trailblazer! Later I realized that ... those were not the lyrics.

When the first rush of Belinda Fever hit me around ... oh, I guess it's about eight years ago now (Jesus, what's happened to my life?), I felt that "I Get Weak" was, for lack of a better word, probably a little "weaker" than her other big smashes, lacking, say, the gothic majesty of "Heaven is a Place on Earth" or the semi-autobiographical sweetness of "Mad About You." "I Get Weak" was just a chunky, catchy, glossy, upbeat pop song, without any of the hidden drama of "Circle in the Sand" or "Summer Rain." These days, I don't give a shit what I thought eight years ago. All four minutes and eighteen seconds of "I Get Weak" give me the special tinglies. You want to hear a chunky, catchy, glossy, upbeat pop song that hits all the sweet spots? Here you freakin' go.

To get down to brass tacks, "I Get Weak" is all about the "whoa-oh" bridge. Sure, the stuff before that is cute. The track opens with three massive drum thwacks, followed by an even more massive keyboard hook and a couple of guitars that chug away on opposite sides of the stereo spectrum. But at 0:47, things get weird. First some faint "ooohs" appear in the background, then a couple of forceful cymbal strokes ratchet up the tension underneath the words "completely" and "lose," which seems to unleash the background singers, a veritable Warren tsunami whose "ooohs" increase in such volume that they threaten to drown out Belinda's lead, and then suddenly the song wobbles back and forth precariously on a melodic see-saw, Belinda literally sounding like she's trying to "steady" herself from her weakness as she sings "Whoaaaaa, whoa-oh, whoa-oh, whoa." Great Gadzooks! Is Belinda about to tumble to her MOR doom? Hark, but what's this? The chorus arrives at 1:06, and not only does Belinda recover, she lets it rip into next Tuesday. Hey, who's the weak one here: her or me?

The thing is, I think Belinda's distinctive vibrato gives the song an ironic tension that, in the hands of more conventionally "powerful" future Warren interpreters such as Toni Braxton or Celine Dion, it might not otherwise have had. Not many singers can sound fragile and vulnerable one moment and tough as Jackie Chan's femur the next. Vocal highlights:
  • 0:20: As she draws out "When I'm with youuuu," she sounds so ... lusty.
  • 0:27: "My tongue is tie-ie-ie-ie-ied" - she literally sounds like her tongue is tied right there; fortunately, Rick Nowels must have jumped up and untied it before Belinda proceeded to choke to death.
  • 0:37: "Can't eat, can't sleep" - Now that Belinda has gone into detail about her struggles with an eating disorder around the time of Heaven on Earth, I have to say, I feel like this line carries a bit more punch to it these days.
  • 1:42: As the chorus winds down, her singing starts to become a little, well, "weak," and I'm kind of wondering if she's up to the task of keeping her energy level up throughout the rest of the song, you know, and then out of nowhere she growls out "Ah-I get weak!!" with the force of a thousand yuppie volcanoes and I instantly cower in the corner and pray to Almighty God that Belinda doesn't blast me off the face of the earth.
  • 4:07: The third time through the chorus, she intentionally stutters on the word "eye," gradually allowing it to morph into the "I" at the start of "I get weak." Clever, clever!
As if one Belinda Carlisle video wasn't enough, Diane Keaton decided to direct two. I'll have to dock this one a couple of points for a discernible lack of wall-humping and globe-fondling, but other than that, it's not bad. The key visual concept appears to be that the video is more or less in black and white aside from a few random objects such as bed sheets, ribbons, flames, flowers, Belinda's red lips, etc. You know that scene in Schindler's List with the girl in the red coat? It's like that, only bleaker. I'm not sure what the thematic purpose of this effect is. Maybe, when you're weak, you can't see videos in full color? One perhaps unintended consequence of this trippy color effect is that it makes Belinda, at least in the section from 0:20 to 1:06, look disturbingly pale rather than disturbingly gorgeous (as one might describe her appearance in the remainder of the clip). I mean, I know she was doing drugs and everything, but come on, she didn't look that pallid. Give me the Belinda in the blue satin dress and long black gloves (starting at 1:52) instead! Now here, ladies and germs (former Germs?), was a woman capable of the kind of old-fashioned Hollywood glamour that the '80s, frankly, didn't deserve. You know that section in "Vogue" where Madonna lists all those mid-20th century fashion icons? She should have just recited Belinda Carlisle's name twenty times in a row and called it a day. Q: How can you look absolutely stunning while hardly revealing any actual skin? A: Be Belinda Carlisle in the "I Get Weak" video, that's how. For example, what the hell is she wearing at the start of this clip? It's like a ... long overcoat, a long skirt, a white t-shirt, black boots ... she's covered from head to toe and yet, she's still so hot, she's literally setting boxes of chocolates on fire. To be fair, she is showing a decent amount of cleavage in that blue dress, but somehow it's ... tasteful cleavage. I mean, petals fall from the sky when she dances. Petals!

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the identity of the hunk on the video screen, a certain Tony Ward, better known as "One of Madonna's Boyfriends." Indeed, after serving as the catalyst for Belinda's weakness, Ward went on to appear in the videos for "Cherish," "Erotica," and most notoriously, "Justify My Love." I'm no expert on these matters, but some YouTube commentators feel he might actually be a bit "weak" in the heartthrob department:
Great song from the 80s..but imo, they could've gotten a better looking guy than who they picked for this video.

Weird video since the guy she is weak over isnt good looking at all. lol

Sorry but I find him too Sean Penn-ish. Doesn't work for me.
Sure, but has he interviewed any Mexican drug lords lately? Also, if what various YouTube commentators intimate is true (that Ward got his start in gay porn), the resulting controversy surrounding "Justify My Love" supposedly wouldn't have phased him one bit. I mean, abandoning the lucrative promise and glamour of gay porn for ... Madonna and Belinda Carlisle videos? That's pretty weak. Other YouTube comments that got a chuckle out of me:
if she said she was in love with me, i wouldnt question it

Teenage me thought that she was finer than frog hair.

Belinda was adorable when you can make those bizarre hairstyles look good you know you're a pretty girl.

Belinda if your seeing this I’m still a stud at 54. Let’s hook up

Late '80s-early '90s Belinda Carlisle was every guy's dream. Period. I remember when she was on Letterman during this period in her career -- and he was just a babbling idiot. And I'm not saying that to disparage Dave; he just could not believe his eyes that a woman could be that gorgeous. I got to see her on tour when she opened for Robert Palmer in the summer of '86. Eleventh row, floor. Oversized, lime-green top, chunky bracelets, and purple heels. Oh, yeah. She was awesome.

If I could have sex with a voice, it would be her's.

i remember the single of this came out in the dead of winter 1988,i bought the cassingle and drove all around syracuse getting drunk and mooning people cranking this tune.

I hate to break this to you, Belinda, but from the symptoms you’ve described here you’re not in love; you have MS.

At the end when he she covers his mouth and his head falls back and kind of smiles, it's like she's preventing him from screaming as the cloroform kicks in.