Monday, March 29, 2004

Five most relevant songs in my life at the moment, in no particular order: (I hate doing it in order of importance because I always have to sit there and debate what should go where for hours on end until I give up the whole thing. Call it journalistic ethic...neurotic journalistic ethic. Just to avoid that feeling of responsibility, I'll forewarn you that this may not be a truly accurate list. I haven't heard all of the songs in the world, for instance, and of the ones I have heard, not all of them are in my immediate memory. I'm drawing largely from the songs I happen to have downloaded on this computer so far.)

February Fifteenth, The Bright Eyes

Why Can't I Touch It, The Buzzcocks

All By Myself, Jamie O'Neal

Unkind, Tabitha's Secret

Blood and Roses, The Smithereens

"February Fifteenth" is a ballad of loss and regret. I'll never get over the genius of Conor's lyrics-- simple and precise, imagery and apologies, thoughts going through his mind. In this song, in particular, the genius of his design is clear. When you combine straightfoward and effective word usage, slow and delicate melody, and the sincerity of his shaky, unprofessional voice, the result is an undeniable masterpiece that plucks at the heartstrings of anyone who has lost a friend. The song is about the regretful honesty that comes at the end of any epic friendship-- the things you wanted to say all along, the way you want to scream them in all the fevered urgency of desperation, but can only sigh them out in reluctant acceptance: It's over, and, for what it's worth, I'm sorry, and I hope you know I love you.

I guess that it's typical
To cling to memories you'll never get back again,
And to sort through old photographs
Of a summer long ago,
Or a friend that you used to know.
And there below his frozen face
you wrote the name,
And that ancient date, that ancient date.
And you can't believe he is really gone
When all that's left is a fucking song.
I'm sorry about the phone call
And waking you;
I know that it's late,
But thank you for talking
Cause I needed to,
Yeah, Some things just can't wait.

It would be hard to go into a deep explanation of the meaning of the Buzzcock's "Why Can't I Touch It?", a song that so repetetive it just about made me motion sick the first time I heard it. Still, I can know say that I understand the merit of it-- the song is an unanswered question, repeated over and over again, as unanswered questions tend to be. And it's relevance to my life, as of late, is clear-- it happened that this song was already on my playlist after "February Fifteenth", but in thinking about it momentarily, I realized that it works: There aren't too many songs on the market right now devoted to Vaginismus, so in seeking a song to relate to the feelings I have on that subject, this is one of the closest I can get-- One of the ultimate frustrations of the problem is one of not being able to convince myself that it's really something I can't have. When I'm laying with Zack and looking into his eyes, and I know he loves me, and I know I want him, it's hard to process that there's some surreal, underlying force keeping us apart. It's hard to understand.

Well it seems so real I can see it,
And it seems so real I can feel it,
And it seems so real I can taste it,
And it seems so real I can hear it,
So why can't I touch it?

Once read somebody describe this song as "the thinking man's 'American Pie'", though. This, I don't get.

"All by Myself", a continuation on the vaginismus theme, and obviously relevant to anyone who read the last post. Many of the lyrics in the verses don't apply, but the earnest vocals of the chorus ring true for me-- what's more effective than the way something is said, after all?

All by myself,
Don't wanna be
All by myself

I think perhaps Rob Thomas's lyrical prowess has suffered in his efforts to improve his musical abilities-- for sure, as the years go by, he is growing as a vocalist and musician, but his lyrics, to me, have never been more poignant than they were back in the Tabitha's Secret days, back when his musical interests were probably more an extension of his love of writing. All of "Don't Play With Matches", the first (and, more or less, only) album of Tabitha's Secret, was up for consideration in this current list, with perfectly crafted lines like "She said, 'Don't Cry'/Said it only hurts forever and all we have is time" from "High" or "I don't like my neighbors/Well, they're just not my kind/I think it might be over for the whales and I really don't mind" from "Paint me Blue" dotted throughout the entire disc, but "Unkind" is the most totally relevant. I empathize with both the singer and the singee, the song's "you"-- that kind of role confusion is one of the things I love about the music of Rob Thomas. I always feel like he's singing the song from every viewpoint, which is the way I think, most of the time. The song, to me, is about the way being at a bad point in your life can put a strain on friendships-- the questions, the lies, the way anyone can become a fairweather friend if the storm lasts long enough.

Bring it on baby, what you getting into?
Is living on pain the thing that's getting to you?
Write my name, pin it up with my picture,
And say it's the only thing 'cuz I'm not around to be around.

I'm beaten and battered, hell, if my dreams get shattered then
Pain gives me the right to be unkind.

If you can't appreciate the base line leading into "Blood and Roses" for it's raw power, then there's nothing I have to say to you. The band, to my knowledge, never caught on, but it had, I think the repeating 13 notes of bass that drive the whole song would have gone down in history the way that the base line in "Iron Man" did. The song is a story of the ill-fated love of two people-- a love so strong and a will so powerful as could only be defeated by one thing-- a woman's inner demons. It's a song about how insecurities, fears, and being incomplete as a person can rip any couple apart at the seams, despite the strength of their love. The girl is faithfully devoted t the man, but, in the end, her insurmountable unhappiness forever keeps them apart.

I fear this song will one day become the most relevant of my entire lifetime, surpassing the incredible "Push".

Bought flowers in the springtime,
October, we were wed.
In winter time, the roses died.
The blood ran cold, and then she said:

I want to love, but it comes out wrong.
I want to live, but I don't belong.
I close my eyes and I see
Blood and roses.

On with it.