Critical Failures

Dramatic pop songwriting

Posted in Uncategorized by criticalfailing on January 16, 2009

Glasvegas, “Daddy’s Gone” (2008 ) (official video):

It’s astounding how sentimental this song is and how completely the band have got away with it. This is the great loophole of punklike music: put a boy in a motorcycle jacket, and he can be as maudlin as he likes with no public outcry.

I keep trying to call Glasvegas a punk band, not because of the jackets or because they seem particularly to identify as such, but because James Allan has a basic dignified sadness like the very first UK punk frontmen. I always thought Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer were basically sad performers at the start, even though they were also very witty and very aware of what they were up to, and the importance of replicating it exactly each night.

As with Robyn Hitchcock and the Decemberists, I think I will end up treasuring the tremendous liveness of this band a lot more than I treasure their album. It’s not because they lack irony, though.

KRISTEENYOUNG feat. Patrick Stump, “That’s What It Takes, Dear” (2009) (fan YouTubing)

This has been back in my mind because I found the lyrics on a fan board. (They’re down under the cut if you want them.)

I particularly liked the first line of Stump’s part (“Half sound, half drowned/the only movements toward the ground”), whose singsong meter is stretched into an alien shape by the melody. It seems to lurch close to bad drama, but it’s really almost clinical. (If you take the puns one way: “The subject’s living portion was entirely auditory. The subject’s only movements were downward.”) Specificity is so often the difference between good and bad drama – “Life’s been choked, so I broke three thousand throats” might be abstract, but it’s not vague; it’s an explanation of a symptom in a dream.

Life’s been cold
So I’ve grown a concrete coat
That’s what it takes

Life’s been choked
So I broke 3,000 throats
That’s what it takes, dear

Half sound, half drowned
The only movements toward the ground
But births in earthen dirt
Domine fimus
That’s what it takes

You feel a low flame memory
Summer long ago
Astride, you glide and cry
Open faced, open
That’s what it takes, dear

I don’t want your arms
I don’t need your march for the dead of heart
I don’t want your hug of war
I don’t need your…

(Repeat entire lyric.)

2 Responses

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  1. …and a third. « Critical Failures said, on January 18, 2009 at 12:21 am

    […] 18th, 2009 I got enthusiastic yesterday and broke schedule, posting on critical fallacies, “Daddy’s Gone” and “That’s What It Takes, Dear” – so today’s scheduled post is a weird […]

  2. Amy said, on February 26, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    You are too funny.

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