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Shelby Bryant Brings a Music Box to Life

If "Wound by a Key" sounds remotely familiar, it should. Originally called "Doll on a Music Box," it was first heard in the fanciful 1968 movie musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, starring Dick Van Dyke and a flying car. Disguised as a music-box toy as she tries to rescue the car (don't ask), Sally Ann Howes sang the song in the voice of an imprisoned figurine ("What do you see, you people gazing at me... you cannot see how much I long to be free").

Memphis indie rocker Shelby Bryant doesn't just revive the song; he recasts it. Bryant is a former member of The Clears, a mysterious local band with a penchant for wearing spaceman costumes onstage. There's something spacey about "Wound by a Key," too: Ditching the original tinkling arrangement, Bryant remakes the song as a fuzzy, shimmery wash of old-school electronics. If Saturn had a lounge band, it might sound like this.

In keeping with a long-standing pop tradition of children's choirs (from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" to all those Kidz Bop albums), Bryant recruited two kids to sing the song. The effect is eerie and otherworldly; a comment, perhaps, on the loneliness of adolescence. While it's unlikely that "Wound by a Key" will ever end up on a Kidz Bop disc, stranger things have happened — and, in fact, happen in this very track.

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David Browne
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets.
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