Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rock Lyrics

I was listening to !!!'s Myth Takes, specifically, the track 'Sweet Life,' and I noticed that the chorus, which is fantastic, has the following lyrics:

A! A! B! B! C-C! D-D! C-C-D-D! C-D! A! A! B! B! C-C! D-D! C-C-D-D! D-D! A! A! B! B! C-C! D-D! C-C-D-D! C-C! A! A! B! B! C-C-C-D-! C-C-C-D! C-C!

Now, my first instinct was to memorize this sequence since it's kind of interesting and cool. Then I thought "What the hell? Why is this so cool?" And I decided that it, like most lyrics in rock, by which I suppose I here mean music in which the frontman is lionized and cool, are cool inversely to their intrinsic value as words. Now there are patently good lyrics- due to predilections of the moment, I immediately think of either the Kinks or Smiths (I actually think I might try to make this predilection permanent. I can think of worse things that first thinking of the Kinks and Smiths), but, then, Morrissey or Ray Davies are, by any standard, atypical. "What she asked of me at the end of the day, Caligula would have blushed." Yeah.

But, in general, you have someone shouting "Shout!" or letters from the alphabet or "BABY" or just making breathy noises evocative of lung disease and/or sex. Which is what you would expect because, part of the mystique (aside from tight, tight pants, which I still don't get. Autoerotic asphyxiation? I dunno), is the elevation of the banality. This isn't at all an elitist thing, either, if you're going for a reaction from a crowd, you have to aim at crowds, and if the reaction you're aiming at is dancing and enthusiasm and irrationality, banality is precisely what you'd want to achieve. Or, even, if you do have interesting lyrics, the singing's going to obscure them in the interests of the above considerations.

It reminds me of when, in 7th grade, our jazz band director was trying to convince us all to play fewer notes, which is, I think, a pretty universal 7th grade jazz band experience. You're just old enough to have started listening to jazz (and yet, ostensibly, you've been playing it for two or three years. And people wonder why school bands sound as they do...), and you notice "Wow, these guys play really fast!" because you don't know enough to pay attention except for when that's happening, and you think that's what you're supposed to do, so your teacher has to remind you that a) you sound terrible, and b) the cool parts are actually not the fast parts. Or, as my instructor said, people go nuts not when someone's flying through scales, but when they land on a high note and sit there. Of course, that's not interesting or intelligent, but everyone goes "Oh." It's universal. It's engageable.

Anyways, so I want to see a rock band that isn't They Might Be Giants do children's albums because really, the writing style of Eric Carle and Eric Hill (If I told you that was the pre-eminent Brill Building songwriting team of 1958, wouldn't you believe me? You're too credulous. And you don't know enough about Brill Building pop) is begging for a funk/electronica adaptation.

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