Friday, March 13, 2009

Your Song - Her Song

Your Song - Radio Rager

This one Chad definitely has his fingerprints on. Many have pointed out the pattern/structure of the "Nickleworld" music. I have to admit that I don't listen to modern rock radio, but I am no longer deaf to the formula. I've written about the tribalism in our insecure world of late and how fans hold to what they know and are familiar with. This profit driven sheeple chase has created vertical markets like pinpoints.

It's almost like gang colors. In order to move in certain neighborhoods you must join that gang, wear the colors.

To get on popular modern rock radio you must sport the components that let you communicate to that narrow audience. They seem uninterested in any of the legacy that feeds their genre. A precious few might be willing to look under the hood but fearing the admonition of their peers or some self imposed standard they quickly retreat to the familiar.

We see it in modern Hip Hop. The same corny casio sounds and vocal benders, used ad nauseam for 10 years now. No progress, no evolution, strip mining old melodies, old beats etc. The same product in a new package over and over. It's just the way our world is now.

Back to Your Song. Yes it's that familiar pattern. Yes it mostly predictable. The pattern doesn't affect my listening enjoyment so much.

It seems that the opening to all these songs is like a sacrificial offering. Ok here's the familiar opening, so we're all comfortable. Now I'm gonna stray by throwing some new sounds on you. Oh not too much, are you scared? Ok we'll be back on familiar ground. Here's your pre chorus. Ok feel better now. It's the price of admission.

All that being said, I actually love parts of this song. Lyrically it's the most "girl friendly" song Ian has ever written. It still has it's dysfunctional twist. It's all about how much pain he'll take. Like no other. That's an unhealthy position to be in a relationship, but the chicks dig it. Every woman wants to know how much pain you will take. Believe me I'm an expert (6 sisters, 2 wives, 2 daughters, 3 grandaughters). I know I'm REALLY winning female fans here, but I just gotta say it.

You have to strike a balance between bravado and sacrifice without becoming a doormat.

Musically the big riffs are standard, powerful with that good modern rock tone. The power chords cascade and crush. The drumming is basic rock track steady. yadayadayada.

There are some little snippets that add interest. The sitar sounding accents, and the little countermelody that ends that section. Then the sweet synth creeps up in the background. It' very reminiscent of Zep's "All of My Love". Syrupy sweet; too saccharine.

All of My Love was about Robert Plant's lost son and somehow with this earnest sentiment the sweetness didn't make me cringe. I'm just a corny old school fan. That's why I LOVE "All I Need". More on that later.

On second thought, maybe this is with his daughter in mind. As a father must be prepared to love his daughter through all that her growth will bring. Ian has stated that he must re-set his priorities away from the "me-an" to whom he must provide for.

The pinnacle of the song, the big soaring chorus, and the most clever bit of wordplay is the clue. His saving grace is his desire to love her because it takes him out of himself. The tidal wave of a young man's self absorption can drown him. Her presence is like a tiny island to swim for. It's that aaawwwee, moment that shows us the lovable Ian. Rock dad. I'm not goofing here. I admire him for it.

My saving grace
Is you from this tidal wave
Of me
'Cause I need just to see your face
With stones
These bones
Are yours to break
But that's nothing compared
To the pain I would take

The pain of interviewing for a guy as inner as Ian was always a stretch. We don't see it, but he's a really self conscious guy. An ego maniac with an insecurity complex. I only say this because I identify. He's forced into making moves to benefit his family, as all of us seasoned veterans of family life, and it's a good thing. The pain of compromise is crushing to a 'creative". A mans' gotta do what a mans' gotta do.

So he'll take the stones, let her "bust his chops", slay the dragons in spite of her, comfort her AND LOVE her through it, cause he's smitten. He sees her and beams like the sun. He's fallen for her like no other.

You could waste your time in the sunshine every day
But the sun doesn't shine on you like I do
The stars in the sky can fall for you night and day
But they're not gonna fall for you like I do

So Your Song is gonna be a big hit. It's gonna make big royalties for Ian. It's gonna provide for his family. It's Her Song.

All you ladies can write yourselves into the story because you all want a man who'll do what Ian sings about. Admit it.

So not a song that grabs me in the musical gut but for the sentiment and lyric it is wonderful and I hope it touches the hearts of all the girls. After all, we do it ALL FOR YOU.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Man Overboard

I just had an exhilarating experience. I'm all coffeeed up on a Saturday morn. My wife is away and all the kids are too. It' 6:30 am and I've got the music cranked in my basement. None of the neighbors have called (I probably couldn't hear them anyway). It's been a couple of days since ingesting any Tiny Pictures. I decided to throw TP in a mix with the Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely (one of my latest faves, and destined to become a classic IMHO).

Consolers is a near perfect effort to capture that 70's sound and and to write in that style. The songwriting is loose, funny and a great collage of styles from the era. I know it was critically panned by White/Raconteurs fans alike as a uneven, subpar effort, but over time it has grown in stature and I really believe that when we look back at this decade this will be a standout record.

In a playlist I put TP and CoL. Now TP is nowhere as loose as CoL, but it holds up right next to it, sonically and creatively. The retro pieces all fit and the modern sounds, although a bit tight/polished for my palette, are tasty and controlled.

Listen to the song "Consolers" and the original Beautiful demo and you'll see that concept of smashing two songs together that Ian does so well. Jack White talked of taking two old tracks and slamming them together. Big Wreck's No Fault was this. The best part of the Raconteurs is their Tight but Loose approach to song writing/recording (Tight but Loose is a phrase coined in relation to Zeppelin's material/Jimmy Page's playing).

TP has a different mission. JW because of his incredible success has carte blanche to do what he wants. The Raconteurs is a bit of a vanity project that is an outlet to show that he can do more than just the simple White stripes stuff. JW is loose and free. Ian has to "bet the farm" on every project. JW has FU money and a commercial track record. He's loved or hated, but he gets attention and market. Right place at the right time. Providence, Providence, providence.

Man Overboard - Galloping Raver

MO is a really clever piece, lyrically, that again gives us a look inside (at least that's what I think). Like the legendary Lost at Sea from the supergroup show, Ian uses a seafaring metaphor. I love the duality of a man who goes overboard/extreme in a situation. Like you're overreacting or becoming an extremist. Like recording 5 guitar parts on this section or noodling a sound until your ears bleed. We can go overboard with passion. Or for that matter any emotion to excess.

We also can get off the bus; Off the boat; Into uncharted water. This is our guy. Dump the band, dump the relationship, dump the management. Dump the security of what's known and take that leap.

So life under water
Isn't all its cracked up to be
Not quite want i wanted
Well, it gets a little hard to breathe

There once was a time
When it seemed like a good idea
I'll keep this in mind the next time I go overboard

Having made the break, he's having second thoughts. Holy crap, it's way more difficult out here on my own. I know I chose this but... It's easy to bitch about your colleagues when you have some.

From the live versions with the long intro this song seemed to plod a bit and was overly angry/metal/heavy for my liking. I know most of those who heard it live crave the original power. The recorded version is still really heavy but is has bit lighter/pop-ier edge.

It opens with a variation of that Van Halen-esque chugging riff that appeared in Big Wreck's No Fault, but it's morphed into something more fuzzy, more modern metal. It's a bigger fatter animal and it sets up the breezy section to follow.

As he goes into the recrimination part of the verse the guitar parts go toward the dissonant; like on Found Another Way from Come Again. That "in your face" annoyance that mirrors the lyric. The music fits the words.

So leave, never believe, that I'd ever leave
You're making it so damn hard to breathe
Throw the line and throw me the rope
You're killing the bravest part of me

The recorded version is much more Police than Metallica. Daniel Adair does his best Stuart Copleand. It's still got some WOMP but lighter than the rest of the record. It shows Adair to have a subtlety I had not expected from the beginning of the track.

And I'll find a home
And I'll tip this boat

I do not get the people complaining about the chorus being annoying. It sounds very catchy to me and when driving in the car this is the most likely to get me a ticket. This really cruises along at a fevered pitch with all the cymbal and guitar in syncopated pattern.

Man overboard, man overboard
Can't take it anymore
I'm swimming back to shore
Man overboard, man overboard
Can't take it anymore
I'm swimming back to shore

The solo, short and tight, frames up the emotional bring down part.

So next time remember
How it was supposed to be

Then BOOM we're back to recrimination. Where the protagonist spews on the ship he took out there (then proceeded to jump off of) for not helping him out. Like a relationship that breaks up and the one that left bitches that it's tough out there... alone. Yeah no shit! You left!

Be kind, throw me the line
And throw me the rope
You're making it so damn hard to breathe
Throw me the line, throw me the rope
You're killing the bravest part of me

I know when I got sober that soon afterward I bitched about making the leap to a new life. It was really hard sometimes AND boring. Looking back I'm glad I tipped that boat and began to swim to shore. I hope Ian can feel the same about this venture.

I suspect it was a decision made out of good common sense. Like he said in one of the interviews, he's got kids and a family to consider. The balance of artistic satisfaction, full family life, making a living and managing expectations is no easy task.

I'm taking my time with these because the timing at this point is immaterial. When fans discover Ian they'll find this crap and react. I hope that sharing this can open eyes and ears to some of the depth that I hear in Ian's work. I trust some of you can add some of your own listening angles.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Somethin's gotta Change

Changes - Radio Rager (with a classic twist)

This is typical of this CD's sneakiness. It's a another obvious commercial track. The second single for sure. Having heard only a really poor quality live version of this from a couple of years ago, I had no strong opinion of the track going in. The Changes I know opens with a warbley guitar (Not sure if it was an effect or just a bad recording). The CD version is all twinkly 12 string goodness.

That said, it's got an immediate radio friendly structure up front. The expected friendly front end that lets the radio audience in and fits the format, but gets continually more and more adorned with classic textures. There's even some similar quoting "All Comes Out in the Wash" opening melody line after the self confessed George Harrison licks.

Now, who's gonna make those connections in the genpop audience (Ian talked about it in the interviews). Not many. THAT is not market driven. THAT's of no genpop value, but that makes Ian happy (and me too). AND it works.

The lyrics are not the deepest of Ian's offerings but almost everybody can relate. There's an unsophisticated side to us all longing to elevate ourselves; to break the inertia and achieve escape velocity. Kind of like Blown Wide Open or Keep a Good Man Down without the clever metaphor. We've gotta admit that most of that stuff was lost on the audience or Big Wreck would still be. Sad but true.

Maybe it's freeing to just state something simply. Straightforward, unambiguous, repetitive. Dave Grohl gets away with it and gets Grammys.

It's all glittery and sweet enough and the cool licks keep building. A GREAT pop song.

Gotta mention the drumming. Steve Gorman is one of the best drummers in this modern era. I've seen him numerous times with the Black Crowes. When he played with Jimmy Page and the Crowes he was the glue that held that tour together and he had the biggest shoes to fill. He's got range and swing. Not your ordinary rock drummer. I am incredibly heartened by the Crowes/Thornley connect. I know that Ian is a fan as he played a bit of Cosmic Friend at the end of the last Big Wreck show on the day the Crowes broke up and Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar - Grady - Ian personal friend) was a special guest for a Black Crowes album showcase in NYC for Lions. So.... the Crowes know how to be funky and swing; an area Ian needs to go IMHO.

I think the way Gorman is recorded, masks the subtlety of his playing. The radio friendly production tends to homogenize it all so it sounds cohesive. On first listen it's not much different than Adair. But listen carefully, the fills are more Keith Moon, the tempo is looser, it's bombastic without being so hard. It fits the song. My like it.

Let me also say that I like Ian's bass playing. It's a bit Big Wrecky in the spots when the music drops out. The more I hear it the more it grows on me. And I LOVE the tasty slide.

Then comes the 10 Years Gone influenced outro riffage. The counter verses "Some things can't stay the same/somethings gotta change" sweep you up and carry you above the frantic drumming.

I love the false ending (although some smell "radio edit"- probably rightly). It still breaks up the structure for a left turn not expected. The outro build up while kinda typical Thornley is still very old school in feel. It could go a few more bars but maybe that'll be the live version.

I must say that it ends awkwardly. The vocals and instruments mistime the end and fade too abruptly. This kind of stuff is what some deem as poor production, Ian sees as "character". In my mind it should end like Breakthrough (actually that was rough too but it worked somehow) What I wouldn't give to see Myles Kennedy and Ian double-team that one live! That'd be worth a trip to Canada alone.

The little piano tinkle is a nice touch and if you listen really close you can hear someone chuckle. The recording is pristine. Perhaps a bit too at times but it does really make you pay attention.

I have a mix list in my iTunes so all Ian's studio music can shuffle. The new tracks definitely jump out at you sonically and add nicely to the whole collection. Tiny Pictures keeps growing on me.

See ya soon.