original. acoustic. music.

Love, Popular Music, and Hell

We took last Wednesday off from performing as it is time to look back at what we have and press on with new material.

Darrel pointed out quite rightly that a few things have changed in a few songs but we haven't codified them, that is, we tend to do things a particular way through an unspoken agreement at the time, but haven't actually sat down and said: "Ok, so here's how it goes."

This fact is evident when we listen to our studio recording - the be-all and end-all at the time of all of our material. Obviously the live performance is going to differ from the studio performance, but a lot of stylistic changes have come up in live versions of our songs that I think are here to stay. I can't wait for the time and money to be able to tweak to my heart's content in a studio - things are bound to change then - but for now it is good to be able to refine and refine and refine.

We worked on two of the three new songs we have in progress at the moment: All the Time in the World and Don't Come Any Better. The last time we played All the Time... we were agonising over how to finish it. It's a fairly simple song, two chords for the most part, but I think it has some of the more interesting hooks we've come up with (probably 'cos we can't just have a two-chord song and feel satisfied). The writing process of this song has been probably the most brutal and painful of all of the songs we've written so far - I threw out a bunch of lyrics and we changed a kind of Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme-esque phrase into something a little less complicated - but the end result seems pretty good. Long, but good.

It is another love song - a song about rescue from loneliness. There is nothing like love, be it requited or not. There is no other time in your whole life that you are ever so focussed on someone other than yourself. With the promise of a new love you feel ready, willing, and able to do anything to get their attention, to find out if they feel the same way, or to just pursue the impossible. In this case, give up all the time in the world. Many of our songs deal with vulnerability - either the self-consciousness of the unrequited, or the crippling feelings of inadequacy at the end of a relationship. Hope is the thing that keeps us going at these times in our lives - for example, it can charge us with excitement as we read into signs that aren't there - "Was that a glance or a look?" "What did they mean by 'Hello'?" In All the Time in the World the hope is that, by coming together, the two people can save each other. I picture loneliness as a vast ocean or a crowd of strangers in a foreign land. Don't Come Any Better is pure pop - it has a chord change in the bridge that I've dreamed about but never had the courage (or the skills) to put in a song.

The Moody Blues did an album in the late 60's called In Search of the Lost Chord. Their lost chord was found in the word "Om", my lost chord was found by Darrel and is probably something Major 7th. Thanks Darrel.

The lyrics for Don't Come Any Better come from a conversation I once had with my partner. When things happen in life we react to them - cause and effect. We see something on the TV that makes us feel sad, for example. When we express our feelings about it, or even just report the fact, we tend to phrase it with ourselves as passive, being affected by it - "That movie made me sad". Yet it is possible to watch a movie with sad things in it and not be sad, isn't it? You could argue that every emotional response we have to the world around us is a choice - a split-second one, and too quick for conscious reflection - and it is one we make ourselves. Oncologists may see hundreds of cancer patients a year, complete with grieving families. What prevents them from burning out in an instant and succumbing to what must be a huge weight of tragedy? You could argue that, out of necessity, they choose not to be sad. This is obviously a simplified example, philosophy painted with a 6-inch housepaint brush (by a monkey), but the idea is interesting. A break-up should not make you sad, you can choose how to react to it, and either look ahead to the future, or do a little self-indulgent wallowing for a bit until you feel better. Recognising your ability to choose makes you feel less like a victim, and can give you hope.

Another idea along the same line is that every day is perfect (perfection being the common bedfellow of philosophy and religion). If you are willing to accept that, and that you are in control of how you feel about things, would not therefore your life be perfect (he asks, rhetorically and possibly grammatically-incorrect)? All this in a roughly 4-minute pop song. What is the world coming to?

Another thing I like about this song is its nod to Leonard Cohen and his contribution to the continued wellbeing (or continued depression) of heart-sick people everywhere. A flatmate of mine while I was at university used to have one of those then-new Aiwa 3-CD midi systems (wow, you could change two CDs while the third one played! Hot poop!). Thing is, she only had 3 CDs: Portishead's Dummy, Boney-M's Gold, and Leonard Cohen's Greatest Hits.

Now I studied Classical Studies at university and came into contact with several philosophers, artists, and writer's visions of Hell. Dante's Divine Comedy talks about several levels of Hell - I'm pretty sure if you read between the lines, he talks about living in a flat with someone with a 3-CD midi system and those three CDs...