My iPod #560: Wilco – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

The story goes that Wilco were going through some inner turmoil during the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, particularly between lead singer and guitarist Jeff Tweedy and fellow guitarist and composer Jay Bennett. Their original record label weren’t so impressed with the final result of their work, rejected it and told the band to get out of their faces, leaving them with an album to provide but no label to release it. Eventually things all fell into place. Wilco got signed again. The album, originally slated for September 2001, was physically released to the masses months later in May 2002. Critics ate it up, fans loved it. Still do to this day. It has gone down as one of the best albums of the opening decade of this century.

‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart’ is the album’s opener. It’s seven minutes long. It takes about a minute of that time for the song’s main chord progression to make itself known after a sort of instrumental prelude of pianos, percussion and organs. Tweedy’s mellow voice comes in with the album’s first (and possibly most quoted) lines “I am an American aquarium drinker/I assassin down the avenue/I’m hiding out in the big city blinking/What was I thinking when I let go of you?”, and it all goes on from there really. You have to listen to it for that full experience.

Tweedy doesn’t have the greatest singing voice. Not soulful, or belting from the stomach or whatever. But it’s just perfect for the whole mood of the track. And the album in general. The vocal melody is the most simple thing. But it’s great. It will get in your head. And accompanied by the very full mix provided by Jim O’Rourke, it’s an enrapturing listen. It’s hard to not find yourself in a bit of a trance when hearing this. You probably won’t feel it on your first listen. It’ll sink in.

Above is the supposed demo of the tune, as recorded by Jay Bennett before it went through remixing for the album. Some prominent smooth Rhodes(?) piano in there, but not quite the same.

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My iPod #523: Alexisonfire – “Hey, It’s Your Funeral Mama”

The video isn’t really eight and a half minutes by the way. Someone messed up on their part.

I think this song is awesome simply because it is about go-karting.  I have never heard of another song which touches upon the subject, even if there was it would never come close to topping this one.

“Hey It’s Your Funeral Mama” is a song from Alexisonfire’s second album Watch Out!, released in 2004. Why that’s the song’s title I couldn’t tell you. I have the feeling it may be taken from a film, or may have sprung up in a conversation between a band member and their friend. We’ll probably never know. The hilarious music video has nothing to do with the subject matter either. Alexisonfire hold auditions for Alexisonfire clones so the real band can take a break while the clones do their shows for them. It’s a good watch.

Alexisonfire songs always get me pumped up and motivated even if I’m not planning to do anything active. “It’s Your Funeral” is no different. Straight from the beginning, the alternate muted and power chords give off the sound of engines revving up before racing off as soon as the lead guitar line enters the mix. Overall, the guitar playing is sick. And slick. Kudos to Wade MacNeil and Dallas Green. But the highlight throughout the whole track is the interplay between MacNeil, Green and lead screamer George Pettit’s vocals. One guy will be singing their heart out in one line before the other abruptly comes out of nowhere to scream the next. A very hard to sing along to by yourself, for sure.

A really enjoyable song in the long run. Something to thrash your arms about and go wild to.

My iPod #500: Brakes – Heard About Your Band

500 posts. That’s crazy. I never thought this would be something I’d still have the energy and commitment to carry on two years later, and yet here we are. I’m proud. Thanks to anyone who has liked, given a comment, or simply checked the blog out. You are part of the reason I choose to do this. A big part nonetheless.

And so the band that has the privilege of having the half-thousand song that I am going to discuss is Brakes. Or BrakesBrakesBrakes, if you are situated in the USA. “Heard About Your Band” is a song from the Brighton band’s debut album Give Blood, released ten years ago in July. The album was recorded in a mere eight days in January 2005, and most of the tracks on there were recorded live and in one take. There are some cuts where the band will finish one track, and you’ll proceed to hear them tuning their guitars and sorting themselves out before going straight into the next one. Many of the songs are under 3 minutes. The shortest is seven seconds. And with a wealthy amount of sixteen tracks, Give Blood doesn’t even reach half an hour in duration. It’s very efficient. It is a belter.

“Heard About Your Band” is the fourth track in, and is about singer Eamon Hamilton’s experience of listening to this guy incessantly rabbiting on his band, and his stories of meeting all these female icons like Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and ‘the girl’ from Sleater-Kinney. Of course, Hamilton is sarcastic throughout his lyricism; he clearly doesn’t give a shit about what this person has to say, but his vocal performance with his gravely yelps and frantic ad-libs make him sound like he’s so excited about the whole ordeal. In the end, he dismisses with a pissed-off sounding “Whatever, dude” and the track comes to a close a minute and ten seconds in.

A great thing about the album is that the tracks don’t go on longer than they should do. All the good parts are crammed into maybe 1-2 minutes, which makes for some enjoyable listening. “Heard About Your Band” is no different.

That’s 500 done. Here’s to the next 500. Keep on reading.

My iPod #469: Fall Out Boy – Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy

I haven’t listened to this song in a long time. Doesn’t feel the same as it did when I was younger. Maybe because I’ve heard it too many times. The bite it used to have isn’t as sharp anymore. I can still write about it though, even if my heart won’t be into it so much.

So “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy” was Fall Out Boy’s second ever single, released in 2003 on the group’s first album Take This to Your Grave. It may as well just be called “Where Is Your Boy” because that’s the main line of the chorus. Not sure what the “Grand Theft Autumn” part means. Possibly the song was recorded during the season, or it’s inspired by the rapid guitar introduction. Whatever it is….. it just sounds good for some reason, even if it doesn’t relate to anything in the song.

A lot of people will know the track. For those of you who don’t, it’s about wanting to be in a relationship where you feel you would treat the girl better than the guy she’s already with. It is also possibly the poppiest-punk track the band have done to this day. Not that that’s bad. Its relatable subject matter in the lyrics matched with its upbeat tempo and nice melodies make it very accessible. Probably why it’s one of the band’s most popular songs. Just sounds a bit dated to me, I’m just saying.

My iPod #449: Eels – Going to Your Funeral Part I

“Going to Your Funeral Part I” is the second track on Electro-Shock Blues, the second album by the alternative band Eels. Recorded during a period in which several friends and members of frontman E’s family passed away, the album is regarded to be the band’s best work because of the brutal honesty and sincerity within each of the sixteen tracks on it.

Preceding this song is “Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor“, a lullaby-like track with lyrics taken from E’s sister’s personal journal before she unfortunately ended her own life some time after. “Going to Your Funeral Part I” depicts the scene bluntly stated in the title after the tragic event. You’d think that coming right after it, it would only concern the funeral of his sister and that’s what we’re made to believe for the first and second verses, but it is only until the final verse which has E almost screaming into a megaphone about remembering an old friend he used to hang out with behind their old school.

Beginning with an ominous drone that pans from left to right and quickly fades out, the track then gets to a crawling start carried by an unsettling groove led by an intense but very slack bass line that oozes from one note to the other. E comes in with a light falsetto vocal after, but over the dark bass line and overall atmosphere still isn’t able to to make the track less dissonant than it already is. The style changes during the choruses where cute xylophones and backwards slide guitars enter the mix; those only appear for a short time before returning to the grungy sound again.

Only five minutes into the album, the listener is already provided with two tracks that sound the complete opposite to one another. Though the first hints at the unsettling feel with light music and heavy lyrics, “Going to Your Funeral Part I” really hits it home.

If you want to know why it’s specifically labelled as “Part I”, here is “Part II”.

My iPod #442: Coldplay – God Put a Smile upon Your Face

“God Put a Smile upon Your Face” is a track from Coldplay’s 2003 album A Rush of Blood to the Head, one which built upon the sound that the group had established with their preceding debut Parachutes. The former album contains some of Coldplay’s highly rated songs from “The Scientist” to “In My Place”. But I feel “God Put a Smile” doesn’t get much love as those, or any of the other tracks in Coldplay’s vast catalogue. Releasing it as a proper single in only a few regions may have something to do with that.

Starting off with Chris Martin singing the first verse with an sinister acoustic riff to set the ball rolling, the track picks up with a cool bass groove and steady beat with little guitar licks added by Jonny Buckland for effect. There’s something about this track that I think makes it have an edge over a few others. I think it’s quite a dark song. I know that ‘dark’ isn’t an adjective that you would normally associate with a band such as Coldplay. It just has that dissonant tone about it. The music video maybe reinforces this idea.

Honestly can’t say much about it. Nothing personal; it is a good track that fits in with that killer first half of the album.

My iPod #415: The Darkness – Get Your Hands off My Woman

I was eight years old when I received “Permission to Land” as a gift from my cousin. Around the time I thought “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” was one of the best songs to exist, and is probably one of the reasons I started listening to rock music. Some people start with Nirvana; I start with The Darkness.

To this day, I remember my sister asking for the album’s booklet containing the liner notes and lyrics and so on. She then told me that I shouldn’t look in it. Straight up. I asked her, “Why not?” She replied, “Just don’t.” Of course I went on to when she wasn’t looking. I saw the swear words in “Black Shuck” and this song, and saw why she was so suddenly stern about it.

Even though I don’t think as highly of the track/album as I did then, it still brings a laugh whenever I hear it. This track as serious as hell though just like all of the others on “Permission to Land”, I just get the feeling that people wouldn’t have liked them because they were too much of a spoof or a mimic of dramatic heavy metal bands from the 70s or something. But when you have a track like this where the words “motherfucker” and “cunt” are shrieked at a frighteningly high pitch I can’t help but smile at it all. Justin Hawkins is a crazy singer with an astounding vocal range, and “Get Your Hands Off” is just one out of the many where it is shown to its full potential.