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Songs I wish I had written – Volume One

March 27, 2010 Leave a comment


As my ability to write and play music has progressed over the years, I’ve found myself listening to music in new and different ways…trying to absorb the various different textures involved, put myself in the songwriter’s shoes, wrap my head around the connection and the interplay between the lyrics and the music. They aren’t necessarily my favorite songs (though most of them are on the very, very short list), but they are songs that I find incredibly special. Here’s the first one…

Face To Face – Burden
(Trever Keith, Scott Shiflett)

You could say
I might find it difficult to show it on the outside
From far away
I should seem as ordinary as would seem the truth
But all we find
Dishonesty and lies
It’s hard to recognize the truth
And why can’t I discover what the reason is that I
Know there’s something left that I should prove

I didn’t mean to burden you
Is there something more to this?
I didn’t mean to burden you
Is there something more to this?
Was it something I’ve already missed?

Peel away
The fear that I’m not good enough
To give back what I’ve taken
It’s hard to say
The disappointment tends to make the optimism fade
I’m still behind and running out of time
It’s nothing but a trite excuse
And why can’t I discover what the reason is
That I know there’s something left that I should prove

I didn’t mean to burden you…

It’s probably no great secret that I enjoy Face to Face more than most (any?) other bands. Traditionally thought of (correctly) as a SoCal punk rock band, Ignorance Is Bliss marked a departure from that sound that, sadly, prompted a lot of their “fans” to jump ship. It is a vast understatement to point out that they really missed out. A stellar album from start to finish, IIB’s sound is at its peak on “Burden.”

The song starts out with Trever’s not-heavily-distorted Les Paul playing a stripped down run through of the 9 second main chord progression that will be duplicated for the remainder of the song. A quick machine-gun snare fill by Pete Parada cues the rest of the band to join in lockstep. Those first notes still hit me the way that they did when I first heard the song sometime in 1999. The noted addition to the normal sound on this song is strings (strings?!?), expertly arranged by the renowned Steve Croes.

Around the 30 second mark, Trever’s vocals kick in. I’ve long found his to be arguably (or not) the best voice in music over the last several decades. The honesty and sincerity in his voice is never better than on this song. You get the sense that Trever really believes what he sings…no Green Day-esque vapidity on this song (apparently vapidity is an actual word…I was hoping I had just coined it!). The line “I didn’t mean to burden you” has always struck me in a couple of ways…one that is straight-forward (genuine concern over having burdened another person), one that is less so (a hint of passive-aggressive sarcasm, perhaps, on Trever’s part). More than a decade later, I still oscillate between which opinion is correct.

The beginning of the second verse continues to hit me in the stomach with every listen (which has got to be over the 2,000 mark at this point). “Peel away the fear that I’m not good enough to give back what I’ve taken… It’s hard to say – disappointment tends to make the optimism fade.” I really don’t think a line in any song has so perfectly painted a verbal picture for the melancholy and self-doubt than can creep into the mind of the middle-class, suburban white male with an unhealthy amount of Catholic guilt (really..that’s what I absorbed out of all those years of Sunday school???).

The chord progression, the guitar sound, the air-tight rhythm section of Pete Parada and Scott Shiflett, the string section…all serve as a perfect stage for Trever’s vocals in all their contemplation. Tough to categorize the sound…not punk rock, not traditional alternative, not straight-forward rock…maybe “post-punk” is the best title. Maybe it doesn’t need a title at all. It is moving, but written in a way that is simplistic enough that you really don’t need multiple listens to absorb it all…it just plain smacks you in the face from the first time you press “play.” Do yourself a favor and click the link below and press “play” for yourself. Feel free to comment.

http://www.rhapsody.com/face-to-face/ignorance-is-bliss–2006

Best of 2010…Volume Two

March 7, 2010 Leave a comment

February was mostly a slow month for new music (as usual), but in some ways it was a nice calm before the storm that the next few weeks and months will bring. It allowed me to fill in some back albums in catalogs that I had been missing (Eels, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club most notably).

All that being said, my favorite album of the month is probably going to turn out to be in the top three for the year…

Tony Sly – 12 Song Program

http://www.myspace.com/tonyslymusic

There has been a trend in the last couple years for front men of punk bands putting out solo material, often times acoustic. Trever Keith (face to face), Kevin Seconds (7 Seconds, etc.), Joey Cape (Lagwagon, Bad Astonaut), Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Greg Graffin (Bad Religion), and Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music) are among those that have gone this route. Now “No Use For A Name” leader Tony Sly throws his hat into the ring in a big way. It’s probably not groundbreaking at all, but it is easy to listen to, lyrically great, and musically just difficult enough to be better than I could play it. Solid, solid album from start to finish.

Check out: Capo 4th Fret, The Shortest Pier, Toaster in the Bathtub

Best of 2010…Volume One

March 3, 2010 Leave a comment

As a way to keep the creative-writer part of my brain from complete atrophy, I’m going to do my award-winning “Favorite Albums” thingy a little different this year. Toward the beginning of each month, I’ll post my favorite album(s) of the preceding month. Without further adieu…

January 2010
I guess the popular thing is to vote for the Magnetic Fields, but honestly, I haven’t heard it yet. Even if I had, I guarantee it wouldn’t top “Legion of Doom vs. Triune”.

http://www.the-legion-of-doom.com

To quote Legion of Doom’s website, “strange, dark and densely layered, this is not a typical hip-hop record.” That couldn’t be more accurate. There is a lot going on musically (it ain’t a Lil Wayne album, let’s put it that way). Triune (who I was only partially aware of) hits a lyrical home run (more Common/NOE than Weezy or Jeezy). Sadly, it is only available via digital download (I’m still an old school, “like to open the album and flip through the liner notes and absorb the artwork” kinda guy and I hope that never changes).
Check out: Cipher Sounds, Inner-City Renewal Program, This is Your Police Department.