#576: The Beach Boys – I Know There’s an Answer

Hey everybody. Been a while since the last post…. I dunno… Just been lacking in motivation recently. With all this music you’d think I’d have stuff to say all the time, and at a consistent rate too. Sometimes I have to really be into it to even open WordPress up. It’s all good today though. Also, I graduated this week. Tuesday to be exact. The ceremony was great, but if it wasn’t clear that I had finished university since I moved out in June it definitely is now. And it’s all slowly setting in. Quietly catching up. An existential crisis looms. So that’s what’s up with me.

The last post on here was another song by The Beach Boys, I know. That’s just the way it’s sorted on my phone, can’t to anything about it. ‘Tis a fine one though, to be sure.

‘I Know There’s an Answer’ is the ninth song on the group’s seminal 1966 album Pet Sounds, and again showcases Brian Wilson’s prodigious musicality with a soundscape of woodwind, horns and booming percussion. Originally the track was written as ‘Hang on to Your Ego’, in reaction to the effects that Brian Wilson – and many, many others in those times – would experience when taking LSD. I’ll put that version down below.

Not being one to partake in those activities, Wilson’s bandmate and cousin Mike Love objected to the song’s drug references and suggested that its title and some lyrics be changed. ‘Ego’ became ‘Answer’ and the beat goes on. I do prefer ‘Answer’ all the way. Something about it just sounds a lot fuller. The vocals in particular. Love sings the first line of the song, Al Jardine sings the following lines, and then Wilson takes on the track’s main refrain. It’s a very cool delivery. Not only do all three members sound like the same person, but I particularly dig how the vocals climb from Love’s trademark low voice to Wilson’s higher key. The instrumentation behind them builds and builds to kinda release itself during the chorus too. It’s very well done. Quite cathartic in some ways. Other things to note when listening is that bass harmonica solo and when, during the song’s fade out, things seem to start speeding up – though it’s just someone getting a bit too eager on a tambourine…… Oh, and a chord on a banjo is played earlier than it should be at one point too. That’s enough.

Below is ‘Hang on to Your Ego’, and if you want to observe just how the song was produced there’s a little making of video too.

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#574: The White Stripes – I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself

Gotta say I don’t have much on the brain about this one….. Nothing on the personal side of things anyway. I think the song’s great don’t get me wrong, The White Stripes achieve a fantastic cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s composition (originally made popular by Dusty Springfield in 1964), but I think I just saw the music video on MTV when I was about nine and thought it was cool. And because I was only nine and still thought girls were icky, I never got the appeal of Kate Moss pole dancing and writhing on a table. The song just simply sounded awesome. That is the official music video by the way for any new readers or listeners, not my doing.

The White Stripes were alright. They have great songs but I’m not a huuuge fan… It always was a big thing when they announced a new single or album though. I recall the video for ‘Icky Thump’ being shown almost every hour on MTV2 in 2007 when it was released. Good times being 12 and everything. Good tune too. Though you wouldn’t find me being the first in line to buy their albums. Was a shame when they split though. Probably still had so much to give.

So anyway ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself’ appears on the band’s 2003 album Elephant as its fourth track. This track’s tone is what pulls me in every time. There’s something very slinky, sneaky and sly in the way it’s performed. Jack White gets that ashy tone on his guitars and sounds like he’s wailing his vocals about in an empty corridor. Meg White gets all primal on the drums. The contrast between the quiet verses and the sudden release in the choruses. That triumphant ending where the song title’s repeated and everything fades out. Man. This is a great track. Whenever anyone attempts a cover of an old track, I feel they should always adapt it to their style whilst trying to capture the magic of what makes the original. The White Stripes did it here. This is one of those good covers.

#569: Chris Bell – I Don’t Know

You might remember that the title track of Chris Bell’s posthumous album I Am the Cosmos started of the ‘I’ section of this ongoing song series. Well, here is Mr. Bell again with another song from that album – the tenth one on there – entitled ‘I Don’t Know’.

Earlier this year I had a phase of listening to Big Star, after really enjoying the band’s first LP #1 Record and ended up reading about the band’s history and watching a documentary detailing the group’s career which is a good watch and one I would recommend to anybody interested. Just doing the general stuff you do when you really get into an artist you’ve properly listened to for the first time.

Making a long story short Chris Bell left Big Star after their first album release, disillusioned with the lack of its success and being in a band in general, and embarked on solo endeavours. His material wasn’t released in album form until 1992, over a decade after his tragic death. Listening to I Am the Cosmos and then hearing Radio City, the album Big Star made after Bell’s departure, it becomes apparent who may have been behind the band’s large, clean and anthemic sound that made #1 Record such a bold effort.

‘I Don’t Know’ explodes right out of the gate with a soaring intro of jangling guitars, crashing cymbals and powerful drums that segue into Bell’s vocals. The track sees the man in a state of confusion as to why he’s sticking around in a relationship that he doesn’t really want to be in, but still finds himself very much attracted to his lady. It’s a song of contradiction and inner conflict, themes that appear throughout the entire album, but it’s a blast to listen to – an energetic and cathartic three and a half minute wonder.

Another strange thing to note is that this song actually appears twice on the album, appearing with a slower tempo and completely different arrangement under the name ‘Get Away’. Now why Bell chose to do this no one will ever know. Isn’t that cheating in some kind of way? Then again… he wasn’t around to pick what songs went on his album. As a result, the deluxe version of the I Am the Cosmos album contains four takes of what are essentially the same song.

Obviously, the vibes are different between the two but maybe the lyrics are to be taken differently even though their completely the same in both songs. I don’t know. Just a guess.

My iPod #497: Stevie Wonder – He’s Misstra Know-It-All

“He’s Misstra Know-It-All” closes Stevie Wonder’s seminal album Innvervisions. Preceded by tracks concerning racial tension, drug abuse and love ballads, the song is essentially a description of a man who gains people’s trust only to let them down, is a straight-up liar, only cares about subjects where there is money involved – whether he gains it or loses it, it doesn’t matter – and overall is someone that many people should avoid. The track is said to be about then President of the USA, Richard Nixon.

Despite the scathing lyrics describing this awful human being (I assume the femininisation of Mister to Miss-tra only emphasises Wonder’s disregard for this person), the song’s music itself is some of the calmest on the album. It is a wonderful five and a half minutes of piano, smooth chugging drums and Wonder’s voice along with some backing vocals that you have to nod your head back and forth to in appreciation. That is before the change up at around three minutes where Mr. Wonder begins to deliver his take with a greater passion (signified by an emphatic “BUM-BUUUHNA-BUUUHNA” ad-lib, hand-claps enter the mix, the rhythm sections play around with the rhythm here and there, and a stronger feel to the song’s groove and mood is brought about.

A real classic. Too good.

My iPod #495: Fleet Foxes – He Doesn’t Know Why

“He Doesn’t Know Why” was the second single released from by indie-folk band Fleet Foxes from their self-titled debut album in 2008.

A mid-tempo track with a general soothing atmosphere, choral church-like vocals and varied instrumentation, it is written from the point of a person whose brother has returned from who-knows-where, looking a very different person from what he was once before. The narrator is clearly concerned with the brother’s well-being and feels that the family will do anything to help him return to his ‘original mind’, but regretfully acknowledges that there is nothing much that he can do to change things.

There’s not much else I can say for this track. That pun wasn’t intended. Fleet Foxes aren’t one of my favourite bands, but they make good music. I can’t deny that. “He Doesn’t Know Why” is a prime example of their brilliant work.