Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ticket to what you need

According to my last-fm account it seems I've listened to a lot of Badly Drawn Boy this week. 50 cuts. The player was on shuffle and it hit "I Was Wrong" from Have You Fed the Fish? and of course I had to hear "You Were Right" which follows on the heels of "I Was Wrong." The songs on that CD are integrated so well that you don't really want to hear one without the other. Then of course this lead to listening to one the other albums The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast and One Plus One Is One.

In all I like Gough's experimentation with structure, melody, and lyrics--although I think all three tend to diminish some of the songs occasionally. In any case lyrically the songs explore the same territory that his sound does; they seem to be mundane but build up to a complexity that is quite compelling:

And I
Was rushing round in circles
For a reason to belive
Wipe the slime from off your sleeve
You could follow me for weeks
And I'm not going anywhere

Sometimes it's hard to love someone
Until the day that they are gone

A seemingly appropriate self-centered bit of rock and roll, but then (following an appropriate shift out of the pining chorus of "Sometimes it's hard to love someone"):

And I
Just had a dream the other night
I was married to the queen
And Madonna lived next door
I think she took a shine to me
And the kids were all grown up
But I had to turn her down
'Cos I was still in love with you

Aside from the slight confusion of who the singer is in love with, the mashing of Madonna and the Queen moves this song out of a sort of solipsistic exploration of existential angst into a exploration of pop culture and a participation in it--not only as a listener, but as a singer.

But that doesn't really matter because this refrain and the ones that follow it where the singer "gets Madonna tickets to what she needs" and the next refrain following an interlude which recounts the deaths of various pop (and not so pop) stars such as Sinatra, Jeff Buckley, Cobain, and Lennon establish that the singer of the song is stuck on the notion of being a pop star at the expense of a "ticket to what he needs." Witness the refrain that follows:

And I
Was busy finding answers while
You just got on with real life
Always hoped you'd be my wife
But I never found the time
For questions to arrive
I just disguised it in a song

And songs
Are never quite the answer
Just a soundtrack to a life
That is over all too soon
Helps to turn the days to night
While I was wrong and you were right (
Badly Drawn Boy - "You Were Right")

There is movement in the song of growth, of course, but it is a negative sort of growth; one learns and that learning somehow doesn't cause one to move forward, but causes one to become more holed up: more wrong, as it were. The song, of course, is not without hope. Ultimately I think it is a song in which the singer realizes his situation in life what it is to be human. It is not degrading, but a sort of waking up out of idealistic or exuberant childhood where everything seems to be possible. Once life beats one down, it would seem, life appears to be less-full of potential, but you sort of muck on anyway.

Now is that necesarrily negative? Is becoming aware a negative thing? Well folks do point out that the smarter one is the more likely one is to become depressed or "unhappy." Ignorance is bliss, right? I think what makes artists Gough appealing to me is his insistence on a reality and not glossing over things and making them hap-dam-pappy for the prettiness of it all. (Think of the end of The Sun Also Rises when Jake tells Brett "Wouldn't it be pretty to think so.") Is that dark? Is that depressing? Is that limiting of life's possibilities? Sure, but we're all consigned to it. That does not make life not worth living, however, nor interesting. It makes it real and not fantastical or even melodramatic. I'd rather be in a world with problems and struggles than a world where everything is plasticoated and all-so-perfect. We might be trapped in this decrepit world, but like Dylan Thomas says "I sang in my chains like the sea." It is pretty much all we got going for us: so sing.


  1. does this mean you'll sing at karaoke tonight, then?

  2. "I'd rather be in a world with problems and struggles than a world where everything is plasticoated and all-so-perfect."

    If everything was all-so-perfect, life would be boring. That's no fun.

  3. Anonymous9:20 PM

    Badly is still my probably favorite band. Definitely summer music.


  4. Yes, steve, it would be Provo. Bah duum dum.