There’s a balance, with control, in a song. Some songs are so meticulous they end up suffocated, and so while I like most of songs performed by the band Phoenix, I don’t sit down and listen to them all that often. Others try so hard to show a lack of control that the sloppiness is contrived, look at any number of the bands that fell out during the garage rock revival a few years ago (my personal least faves: The Datsuns). Here are two songs that clearly show a level of composition and forethought, even as they run in opposite directions.
There’s a shockingly large independent music scene in the Czech Republic, but you really wouldn’t know it; there’s no Czech indie blog (man, I wish someone would start one though), no magazine that focuses on independent music in a country in many ways a transplant from the Midwest in middle of Europe. One of the few bands to break out, in any capacity, is The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, a duo who have been around since the mid 90s, signed to EMI’s Czech label, and were feature on John Peel’s radio show multiple times. They dabble in electronic music, but the best of their stuff has just as much organic life in it. Every part of Wrong Time, Wrong Place, is cut to precision, the guitars are plucked not strummed, the vocals sound like a well worn poet reading an oft-practiced favorite, they deliver a toss-off ridiculous line about smoking crack with such a deadpan you don’t even laugh until the third listen-through. Even at 1:36 when the window opens and the snow gets blown in, it all feels prescribed, and when the song settles back to guitars and violin by the end it is as smooth as plan landing on unweathered tarmac. If it sounds boring or predictable, it is not. Listening to people do something they execute with such mastery is actually a lot of fun.
“Wrong Time, Wrong Place” is from The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa’s 2007 album Watching Black. (if you’re interested in buying the album, which is altogether as good as the song would suggest, your best route is probably through itunes)
Sometimes it’s hard to perceive a sense of control until you’ve ran a mile away from a song. If you think this song is grating, well, that makes sense, but yank the earbuds out and listen to again. There is nothing abstract about Up With People, it someone with a forklift repetedly dropping bricks on taut piano strings, or a bullhorn where a muffler should be, but, to sadly fall back on a term that has dogged Oneida through their entire career, it is absolutely hypnotic. The drumming at the end thrills me every time I hear it. What I wouldn’t give to see these guys live.
continuing with their streak of every few months having features so good that they make me want to duct tape my hands together and never write about music again, PopMatters just posted a beautiful, intellegent essay on Neko Case written by Michelle Banks. It’s so good, i won’t even hold it against her that she liked Buck 65.