15/09/2012

I’ve been thinking about today’s era, which I’d like to now dub as ‘Generation Heartbreak’. Typically, when you tire of your current playlist, or the consistency of the radio’s repetition, or even the mundane ‘heard-it-befores’ spun out time and time again by our monotonous, lowlife DJs in clubs, we sigh and reflect back on to how the modern charts and music ended up in such a drab state. We question what makes music good; what makes it important to us? As more often than not, we find ourselves simply feeling no connection to what we’re listening too and wondering why anyone put pen to paper in the first place. Or is that just me? I don’t know; I don’t care.

Radio DJs, a vast majority, are no better – they lack a spark of originality. Perhaps with radio being a dying art, the passion and energy is gone; it’s deemed too much effort to put life back into his; go down with the ship. Yet, they’re the damn catalysts in this hypocrisy! So we are chained down, caged in to the likes of Adele and Gotye time and time again. I’ll repeat this throughout this column, for I am in no way discrediting these artists as people, but where is the creativity is listening to these same, tiresome songs daily – and not feeling anything from their vague meanings and tones?

Themes in pop songs appear companionless (ha!), and we’re left with the reoccurer: heartbreak. Of course that was the first ideal that came to your head when you think of Adele and Gotye, and even more recently the likes of Katy Perry (‘Part of Me’), Taylor Swift, NeYo, etc. are getting on said bandwagon. Songs therefore are not inspiring or truly emotion; generic phrases pilled upon one another and (as read on Uberfacts: 92% of pop songs deal with sex, and surrounding), more often than not, break-ups and relationships – it’s as if music is moulding our generation to become this shallow, one-dimensional entity, with little care of anything else but sex and ‘having’ something with someone. In feeling, but also this forlorn theme supported by the works of social networking (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram), our lone, secluded insecurities take centre-stage in the blueprint for this downfall.

Emotionally, on this subject, it is not in depth as they barely scrape the surface or deal with the real heart of the problem (along with the music videos that just not... add up; they have nothing to do with the song most of the time; for example Emeli Sandé’s ‘Next to Me’: it’s a self-indulgent video, rather than a powerful story; is that in turn the record label simply being lazy?) in order to gain this wide mainstream appeal – so it can easily connect with anyone at any given moment. But what’s the point? Then there is the likes of Keaton Henson (obviously aware due to previous entries that I am an admirer – and this is one reason why), reading his lyrics made me feel exactly what he felt, and reminisce to the sorrow I had for previous break-ups, but what’s more is… I connected; “The thought of your hands on his chest makes my stomach itch” (‘Party Song’, Dear…, 2011), I feel haunted simply reading it, and hearing him choke out those words packs a powerful punch. I believe that’s where the difference lies; the ability of an artist to convey true emotion, which is why there was such a take off of real emo violent/passionate music in the 90s, i.e. American Nightmare, Rites of Spring, Indian Summer, and Hot Cross.

All these before mentioned chart topping artists, yes, they all have a fantastic set of lungs and I’m not taking anything away from them (Christ, I’m in fact in admiration of their voices, sure), but it’s the most celebrated music we have; this is being played on radios consistently and what is on TV, and is always there, easy access – I find it depressing, because musically, they don’t do everything themselves, and it feels like they’re gaining a lot of praise; and then there’s song-writers (if of course the artist doesn’t write the sub-standard songs themselves, bad enough) as lyrically, they are nothing. A common case is repetitive lines, poorly written ones at that. For example, Nicki Minaj’s ‘Stupid Hoe’ is in no respect, clever; if anything, encouraging moronic behaviour and misogynistic tendencies. A somewhat retaliation, a cry for unity, can be seen in Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’, but, again, constructed by a team of four writers (four!), the lyrics speak for themselves.

I may rename this generation actually: Generation Heartbreak, Heartbreak, and Heartbreak.

I consider this frustrating! Especially as we turn to music for support in times of need, to help us cope, for comfort, for guidance, inspiration, motivation, top heal – anything! It has to be meaningful (to us). Yet we find ourselves exposed and exploited to such drone garbage and dribble. I feel defeated and uninspired listening, at home, out shopping, in clubs and bars; what is grabbing up by the cuff anymore?

Song-writing is a craft in its own right, and it’s as if poets aren’t paid enough respect, let alone attention, too! I’m aware it takes time to perfect, so settling for the first finished product should never be accepted. Or, to quote Paul Valery French: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned”. For me, it’s always been the words I’ve found most captivating, the inspiringly unique turns of phrases or images created. Their part in songs are vital, they should be considered the linchpin rather than not simply making a song an instrumental. Below are several favourite pieces of lyrics that truly showcase talent and you can connect with and relate too;
“You're no good for me
But I guess not bad enough
Because on quiet nights I come to find you
Crawling through my kick drum
Hell bent on deliverance of all the privileges
Of being with you, Heaven sent, I crane my neck
To watch you desperately march down my chest, enjoying every step
Emphasized by distances we never intended
You come crawling back through my regrets to remind me of what you said
We’re no good at this”
- Crime in Stereo – ‘...But You Are Vast’, Crime in Stereo is Dead, 2007
These lines create a wild and vivid, chilling almost, state and scene. I hold appreciation for the dying poets. The music then blends in and builds up these words. They accompany them perfectly. You discover the powerful emotions Dunne is spilling out, leaving you too, haunted.
“So I'm running down Fifth Avenue headed south
I'm going to get you that ring I've been thinking about
I hope that you will like it, I know that you'll like it
I know you've got your necklace and bracelets so it's different
I'm different, I know that you're different
And it doesn't make a difference our differences differ
Cause it makes us the same, and I needed the change
To call you that day I tried to get you that ring
I said, "Baby, it's Jerry, my cell phone is dead
I need you, I'm freezing my cheeks are rose red"
So you came to my rescue and kissed my cold lips;
You said, "Baby I'm here, please don't miss me like this!"
But I did, and I do, and I will, and I won't
Settle for my bed that's increasingly cold
I dream every night that you're biting my wrists;
New Orleans and vampires, I miss you like this
And I did”
- Trophy Scars – ‘Alligator. Alligators.’, Alphabet. Alphabets., 2006
Winding roads, arteries and avenues of word play; spectacular when you re-read to discover new twists. Furthermore:
“Alright... Alphabet, alphabets are amazing, astonishing, aspiring and always aging. Agreeable accents accompany awful answers. Aphrodite’s antithesis, antelope antlers.
I spent six months embedded in ink
I read your book and poured a drink
I knew my alphabet wouldn't be the same
The day you left and got on that plane
[…]
I want to thank you all: a spinning spectacle
My intention’s not to leave you coming back for more
It's a game, it’s a game, it’s fun
Adios, see you later, and have fun
There’s a million other things I'd like to say
But there’s not enough letters in my alphabet today“
- Trophy Scars – ‘Anxiety, Anxieties.’, Alphabet. Alphabets., 2006
Alliterations: clever, complex. His words say it all. Jerry Jones took time when penning this record, which still remains their finest work to date.
“Don't know what I would have had to write about if there wasn't you, or if I ever would have wrote at all. They said it wouldn't last, nothing ever does, but you and me, we're different, always were. Stuck together forever, whatever that will mean. Everything is still all wrong, and we're still all that's real (the only thing that's ever been). The only words I’ve ever meant was when I said ‘I’d do anything for you’. See, our claws stretch deep inside, and that's where they'll stay. You say you're lucky you have me, but I had nothing before you had me, nothing to care about and no songs to sing. I’ve seen the world singing songs about you (the only story I could ever tell right). We said we'd see the world; you gave it to me. So we're stuck together forever, you and me. Stuck together forever, no matter what that means”
- Killing the Dream – ‘Holding the Claws’, Fractures, 2008
Bad grammar aside, ‘Holding the Claws’ is, what I find to be, one of the best written love songs. Its simple use of flourished admiration really makes you smile and cry out all the same. My personal favourite line, was the powerful ‘We said we'd see the world; you gave it to me’, for not only is it beautiful and a touching sentiment, it can be read in two ways, equally has lovely. She gave Horner the world, which would be the commonly read idea, but also, as stated previously, he wrote songs about her, he had nothing to writ about previously, and as a result, he’s able to see the world touring, all thanks to his love. The concept of claws is obscure, but mesmerising – bound together, with a tight grip so matter what tries to tear them apart; love hurts.
“In a sweater poorly knit, and an unsuspecting smile
Little Moses drifts downstream in the Nile
A fumbling reply: an awkward, rigid laugh
I'm carried helpless by my floating basket raft
Your flavour in my mind swings back and forth between
Sweeter than any wine, and bitter as mustard greens
Light and dark as honeydew and pumpernickel bread
The trap I set for you seems to have caught my leg instead
As you plough some other field and try and forget my name
See what harvest yields, and supposing I'd do the same
I planted rows of peas, but by the first week of July
They should have come up to my knees but they were maybe ankle high
Take the fingers from your flute to weave your coloured yarns
And boil down your fruit to preserves in mason jars
But now books are overdue and the goats are underfed
The trap I set for you seems to have caught my leg instead”
- mewithoutYou – ‘In a Sweater Poorly Knit’, Brother, Sister, 2006
Weiss is a master of rhymes; never before have I came across a song-writer which such a strong talent I would urge and plea him to write literature if I were to ever be graced with his presence. He comes up with stand-alone ideas and executes their imagery beautifully, always coming to a conclusion.
“You caught me making eyes at the other boatmen's wives
And heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters
I'd set my course for land, but you well understand
It takes a steady hand to navigate adulterous waters
The propeller's spinning blades held acquaintance with the waves
As there's mistakes I've made no rowing could outrun
The cloth low on the mast like to say I’ve got no past
But I'm nonetheless the librarian and secretary's son
With tarnish on my brass and mildew on my glass
I'd never want someone so crass as to want someone like me
But a few leagues off the shore, I bit a flashing lure
And I assure you, it was not what it expected it to be!
I still taste its kiss, that dull hook in my lip
Is a memory as useless as a rod without a reel
To an anchor-ever-dropped, seasick-yet-still-docked captain
Spotted napping with his first mate at the wheel
Floating forgetfully along, with no need to be strong
We keep our confessions long and when we pray we keep it short
I drank a thimbleful of fire and I'm not ever going back"
- mewithoutYou – ‘Messes of Men’, Brother, Sister, 2006
There is a fast-paced tempo with this, adding energy and tension as this opening track; the words create an expert sense of urgency. Weiss is an honest and raw writer, be it story telling (see their latest release Ten Stories), or using himself as the subject and muse (notably ‘January 1979’, and the very personal “I'm still, eh, technically a virgin after 27 years, which never bothered me before, what's maybe 50 more?” (‘C-Minor’, Brother, Sister, 2006))… He has a gift.

And finally:
Party hard!
Party hard!
Party hard!
Party hard!
- Andrew W.K. – ‘Party Hard’, I Get Wet, 2001
One of my favourite songs is ‘Limousine’ by Brand New, inspired by, and centred on, a true story; horrifying and gripping. What impressed me most, when researching the song, was how well Jesse Lacey was able to refer back to the story, base a song around the incident, and capture the thoughts of all those involved. This song had a meaning, and what’s more is it had a lot of work in its writing process.

This song is about the death of a local Long Island 7 year old girl, Katie Flynn. Hours before her death, Katie was the flower girl at her aunt's wedding, spreading petals down the aisle. As they left the wedding, they travelled home in a limousine. Martin Heidgen had had at least 14 drinks that night and his blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit in New York; he drove more than two miles north in a southbound lane to meet the limousine, containing the Flynn family, head on. Both the driver, Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz, and Katie were killed instantly. Katie was decapitated and her mother held her head as rescue workers helped the rest of the family out of the vehicle. The lyrics in this song draw many parallels to this tragedy.

Truly harrowing and yet this is where my love for music is fuelled! I implore you to research this song deeper yourselves. On a bit of a sour note, however, Travis Reilly, frontman to This is Hell recently tweeted:
“Reading this Metallica biography makes me realize that nobody who matters is ever going to sell millions of albums again [...] with that said, I know Adele is selling millions and I think she's rad, but you know what I mean. Those days are just long gone… Bummer”
Addressing the current situation in modern music, not only with what companies are making sell, the result of internet downloads, but also that the time and effort that is going into music is often unnoticed and as a result, unnourished.

I’m not sure whereas I am/was going with this train of thought, but it was something I wished to express; not necessarily get of my chest, but I suppose, simply raise. I’m not expecting a rebellion, an uproar against modern ways, boycotting your local HMVs... If anything, that’s the last thing I want. It’s a sad state of affairs – so OFWGKTA with some angsty vocals and capture an attention deranged unimaginative, the-world-owes-me-something generation with “Kill people, burn s***, f*** school” (Tyler, the Creator – ‘Radicals’, Goblin, 2011); hardly a candidate for song of the year; hardly a work of art; hardly demiurgic or visionary. It’s just so… unoriginal and uninvolved.

But perhaps these hidden gems we do find are my, your, and our little treasures; discovering these secrets become our reward, the fact you have to go out of your way to find these unknown pleasures, making it that much more special and enjoyable. Like everything in life, don’t just settle; explore and indulge in the new and the wild. Keep exploring! Experience new emotions – there is a wide range of music, so broad it will complete your pallet specifically to you; I’m yet to even begin with mine. And that is what makes these finds so unique and …diamonds in the rough. I’ll stop now, I’ll have a strong Irish coffee (, sigh into it), and stop being such a grumpy old man.

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