#565: The Who – I Can’t Reach You

Just when one Who song has been done, another comes quickly around the corner. ‘I Can’t Reach You’ comes right after ‘I Can See for Miles’ on The Who Sell Out, and as I type this I’m slowly realising the contrast between the two. The latter expresses a narrator’s confidence in their ability to see all things, whereas the former witnesses one who’s trying their hardest to gain any sort of communication with a particular entity they want to get close to. Also, ‘I Can’t Reach You’ is one the daintiest compositions on the whole album which is a sudden change coming after the chaos of the preceding song. Clearly a lot of thought was put into the order of the tracklist. I’ve listened to this album for about seven years now and that’s just crept on me.

There’s a child-like innocence I sense when listening to this song, possibly aided by the foregrounded light piano that leads the melody and the fact that Pete Townshend sings here. At this point Roger Daltrey hadn’t fully developed his trademark howling vocals of the 70s so there’s not a large difference between the two’s vocal abilities on the album, but Townshend’s higher register lends this particular song a softer and vulnerable touch.

The song is the first on the album to use lyrics/music that would then be appear on the following album Tommy through the ‘see, feel, hear’ section of the chorus. ‘Sunrise’ does it. ‘Rael 1’ does it. ‘Glow Girl’ does it too, if you own the 1995 release. Other small, small things to look out for when listening is John Entwistle’s heavenly harmony vocal during the chorus, Keith Moon’s yet again going crazy on the drums – so much so that he lets out a scream before a drum roll around 2:32 – and the sneaky key change that occurs during the instrumental break which you won’t realise would have happened until Townshend brings in the final chorus. It’s all nicely tied together. One of my favourites on the album.

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My iPod #562: They Might Be Giants – I Can Hear You

I can’t vividly describe the first time I heard ‘I Can Hear You’. There was no situation I found myself in life where the song was playing on the radio and felt a wave of emotion. It just happened when I listened to Factory Showroom in full in 2010 or so. I can’t remember how I felt about the song on that first listen, though revisits to it revealed another noteworthy gem of the group’s within their illustrious discography.

The performance of ‘I Can Hear You’ was recorded at the Edison Historic Site in New Jersey on wax cylinder alongside three other songs on 27th April 1996, explaining the low audio quality of the track. Its thin sound also makes it quite hard to decipher what instruments are being played on it. All these years I never thought there was a bass being played in it, yet close listening made it much clearer. It also has quite a simple yet punchy rhythm to it which makes it that much enjoyable to hear.

The lyrics are sets of dialogue from other low-quality transmissions that you may come across in daily life, whether it be from a passenger in a plane calling a close friend from the sky to those intercom towers you order your food from at a fast-food drive-through. There’s a sad feeling I get from this song, I can’t explain it. There’s something about the sound of it and its cyclical nature – the ‘chorus’ at the beginning of the song comes back around at the end – that sometimes gets to me. It’s far from being one of the band’s best songs. Though I enjoy it a lot. Good tune.

The band replicated the recording process of the song as part of a Millennium special of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show in 1999. This version is just as good, if not probably better, given some string flourishes that enhance its effect.

My iPod #524: They Might Be Giants – Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal

“Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal” was originally going to be released on the Purple Toupee EP, when the title track was to be released as a single in 1989. For some reason the EP was shelved and the song was later placed as the opener to the band’s B Side/Remix compilation Miscellaneous T, two years later in 1991. The compilation is loved by many a They fan due to the fact that for a B Side album, the stuff on there are as brilliantly written and performed as any other song you would find on the three albums they had released by that time.

The song is a tale of a lad who is eager to get his new song on the radio, going to the local DJ to see if he can sort some things out. From the wordy title, you can probably tell that things don’t go as planned. The tale is told accompanied by catchy rhythms, an infectious melody and a delightful Carribean-like (xylophone? glockenspiel?) line and backed up by the witty lyrics of John Linnell. Notice how he cleverly pulls of a ‘Glass Onion’ and sneaks in some references to other TMBG songs in a verse. So much fun.

I could imagine this being a lead single for any album. Seeing as it was to be released with “Purple Toupee”, I assume that it was recorded during the Lincoln sessions. Goodness. I enjoy Lincoln enough as it is, but it would have been cool to have this on there. Though it’s title would have stuck out like a sore thumb on the track list.

My iPod #494: The Offspring – Have You Ever

Is it right to say that The Offspring’s fifth album Americana is underrated? Granted it is one of the band’s most commercially successful pieces of work, but I feel that it wasn’t represented that well by the singles released from it. Especially “Pretty Fly” and “Why Don’t You Get a Job?“. A majority of people will only listen to the band for those two songs and never delve further into their material, missing out on what is – to put it crudely – some good shit.

After an introductory nine second skit, “Have You Ever” really begins the album with stabbing palm-muted power chords and crashing cymbals before a drum roll sets the track’s frantic tempo and singer Dexter Holland wails the first desperate lyrics: “Falling, I’m falling”.

The track is about feeling misunderstood, knowing that sometimes we have no control of our own lives, and generally feeling out of place at certain moments. The constant existential questioning is reinforced by the frenetic backdrop of guitars and drums until about halfway through when the whole song changes, the narrator becomes more confident, sees how this corrupt world really works and pledges to do something about it.

My iPod #465: The Beatles – Got to Get You into My Life

“Got to Get You into My Life” is the jubilant, horn-heavy, Motown influenced ode to marijuana written by Paul McCartney, appearing as the penultimate track on the Revolver album. Why do I say it’s an ‘ode to marijuana’, you may be thinking. Well because that’s what it is. McCartney said it himself; the statement can be read in this authorised biography. Sorry to all those who’ve thought it was a typical song about yearning for love. But the real influence behind it makes the track all the more clever, slick and a bit humourous.

But when the first note plays and the blaring horns play the memorable introductory phrase it doesn’t matter what it’s about, you just know that the song is gonna be a good one. It doesn’t disappoint. Paul pulls off yet another stunningly smooth vocal take amongst the aforementioned brass instruments, leaping from the tamest of notes to the other end of the spectrum in a matter of milliseconds. It’s may be a bit worthy to note that Paul is the sole Beatle to sing on here with no harmonies from John and George, something that’s eventually mirrored by the former’s sole vocal presence on the next track. Still the two are make their presence known in the music, particularly George who from out of nowhere brings out a stellar lead guitar solo at the song’s climax, cueing the celebratory coda.

A brilliant track. It’s the last song on the album that you can get up and sing your heart out to before things get a bit philosophical and spaced out for “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Really dig it.

My iPod #464: George Harrison – Got My Mind Set on You

So one day whilst flicking through the countless music channels on TV, I stumbled across the video for “Got My Mind Set on You” on VH1. The camera shot makes a close up on the artist singing and playing the guitar in an old chair, and the first question I asked myself was “Is that George Harrison?” He sounded like him, and though with a few wrinkles and grown out hair he looked a bit like him too. I don’t know why I questioned it so much. Actually, it’s because it was the first time I’d seen a video of his on television. I do know why. Indeed it was George Harrison who was singing the song, but it’s clearly a stunt double doing the flips and crazy dance moves during the solo.

After taking a few years out of music to pursue other interests during the early 80s, “Got My Mind Set on You” was the first single from Harrison’s album Cloud Nine released in 1987. The track is a cover and was originally written by Rudy Clark and recorded by James Ray in 1962, but George – with the help of Jeff Lynee of ELO – makes the song feel like it’s his own laying a great vocal take in the midst of massive-sounding drums, that iconic slide-guitar, and a dominant presence of saxophones.

Just a note, I listen to the extended version of the song that was released as a bonus track on the 2004 reissue of the album. The song is the same. The instrumental breaks are just a bit longer.

My iPod #359: Weezer – Falling for You

It’s good to hear that people are liking Weezer’s new album. Or at least they feel like it’s the best the band has done in many years. But we all know that Weezer were so much better. There are those that completely disregard Weezer’s work after “Pinkerton“, that’s how offended they’ve been. I am not one of those people. Though I have to agree that the band’s second album is the last jaw-dropping thing the band have done.

“Falling for You” has many amazing moments in itself. Too many to describe. Anything I could say has already been written, and it’s a much better read. Have fun with it. In general, there are goosebumps-a-plenty when listening to it.

It is in this track, after eight songs where the narrator has no idea why he’s so shitty when it comes to relationships, that an actual relationship finally begins – only for it to end in the next and last track.