Swimming with Sharks – Careless Love
If you’re of a certain vintage, you’ll almost certainly remember half-page adverts in Smash Hits promoting an exciting sounding new band called Swimming with Sharks, and thinking to yourself “gosh, I really must investigate this a bit further.” And then you probably forgot about it and bought a Pat & Mick single or something. Yes, the pages of ‘ver Hits were sadly always littered with ads for bands that would never get to appear on Top of the Pops, forever consigned to pop’s lonely waiting room (Owen Paul, post My Favourite Waste of Time was a permanent resident). There was just too much good stuff around for everything to make an impact, and naturally far too much bad stuff that had a far greater marketing budget.
Half the reason I do this site is so that, in some small way, these unheralded pop stars can finally get the surly receptionist to look up and usher them into the plush office of recognition. In the case of Inga & Aneta Humpe, aka Humpe & Humpe aka Swimming with Sharks, that recognition is long overdue. For Careless Love is a completely brilliant single and we all ought to have put down that Pat & Mick record and bought three copies each of it.
I’m not exactly sure why, but there is something super-effective about English pop sung by someone who has a different first language – in this case German. It always seems to lend a certain amount of wistfulness and give us an exciting new pronunciation of familiar words. The way “tune” is delivered, in the line “all the songs are sounding out of tune” for instance, is totally ace – just a little off-kilter and strange. In fact most of the lyrics are fabulously unconversational, as translations often turn out to be. I long to approach someone and say “I suddenly turned mute because of simple sadness” and you can be sure at some point I will.
Careless Love possesses a truly magnificent opening that instantly recalls two very specific records – Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush and West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys. I really don’t care whether it was intentional or not, as I’m not one of those people who gets offended by a bit of pop-borrowing – it’s simply a stroke of genius that grants the song an instant familiarity and a thrill of anticipation for what’s to come. And what follows is a classic example of moody, twinkly Europop, with that lovely plinky plonky pipe sound that would later drive Pure by the Lightning Seeds into the top 20. It manages to sound thrillingly expensive and utterly throwaway at the same time, and has a great spoken-word bit for that added Germanic cabaret feel. All this and a killer backing vocal arrangement makes it easy to see why WEA Records decided it was worth putting out in the UK.
This is kind of where the problems begin – in their native land, the sisters were known as Humpe & Humpe, or sometimes Inga and Anete Humpe. Some well meaning executive here obviously got the jitters about that, thinking that the very presence of the word “hump” in their name would send Britons into a frenzy of moral outrage, and so their name was changed to Swimming with Sharks (referencing a line in this very song). I tend to think this was a bit of a mistake, as if anyone is going to be tempted by a song with even the mildest suggestion of sex, it’s horny teenagers with pocket money. Clearly nothing had been learned from what happened with Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Careless Love climbed to a fairly respectable no.63 in the UK charts, but as we’re not particularly well known for giving Germany many second chances, that was pretty much it for the Swimming with Sharks chart assault. Inga Humpe would make a solo attempt in 1990, which was equally brilliant and similarly under-appreciated – and we’ll be having a look at that in more detail very soon. Hooray!
Entered chart: 30/04/1988
Chart peak: 63
Weeks on chart: 4
Who could sing this today and have a hit? I should like to invite Frida Sundemo to give this a makeover.