Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall

I think a lot of people have the same experience as I had with my early discovery of Pink Floyd. It all began with “The Wall.” “The Wall” was one of the first and only albums I ever owned on cassette tape and it was listened to hundreds of times. To this day I hold “The Wall” as the single greatest rock album ever, barely edging out Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti.”

I guess really like double albums.

Before my mother got me my “The Wall” cassette for as a Christmas gift so long ago now, my only exposure to Pink Floyd was through the radio and in turn it was songs like “Comfortable Numb” and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” that brought me to listen to Pink Floyd and their magnum opus “The Wall.”

A powerful drawing emotion of rock and roll is the spirit of rebellion and affectively all youths go through a period of rebellion. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” has this as a chorus:

“We don’t need no education.
We don’t need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher leave them kids alone.”

The message of “we don’t need no education” naturally resonates with young people, all of whom want to find themselves and develop their own identities which can only be done outside the confines of conformity. Like I said I think a lot of people have a similar experience to my own.

“Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” is a perfect song to garner a new young audience, and has been a contributing factor to Pink Floyd’s extreme trans generational appeal. Unsurprisingly a prudish culture was fearful of the message rejecting education, and apparently being incapable of listening a song’s lyrics in full failed to grasp the deeper and truer meaning of the song’s intent, which was a rejection of thought control. I mean it’s says it right there in the chorus, it is literally the second line.

Nonetheless “The Wall” and it’s highest ranking song “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” were considered very controversial.

A lot of people fail to realize that most versions of the song they hear is actual two songs, “The Happiest Days of our Lives” and the afore mentioned “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” These two songs are meant to be heard together, but then again, the entire album “The Wall” is designed in such a way that every song leads into the next. However, in the case of “The Happiest Days of our Lives” and “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” the two songs are truly linked as one. “The Happiest Days of our Lives” details the lives of the brutal teachers, and then Pink Floyd proclaims the lack of necessity that education offers.

A lot of people also fail to realize the song title is in fact “Another Brick in the Wall Park 2,” assuming a title like “We Don’t Need no Education” instead. A very specific title like “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” should raise some questions to the casual Pink Floyd fan, like what is part 1 like? Or is this song a part of a larger whole? Anyone with any meaningful knowledge of Pink Floyd already knows the answers to these questions but we shall go over them anyway.

There are three parts to “Another Brick in the Wall” to properly appreciate what make them special one must understand “The Wall” the album, but more so the metaphor. Roger Water’s “The Wall” is a very real barrier separating the narrator from the rest of the world. The bricks, within this wall, at painful moments and events that damage the narrator, and create the divide between himself and the rest of the world. In the famous part 2, we see the abuses of overly determined disciplinary teachers and a soul crushing education system lasts with him forever.

Another Brick in The Wall Part 1:

The first brick in the wall is altogether different. “Another Brick in the Wall Part 1” is three minutes in length and is primarily a guitar song using a lot of long lasting notes creating a lot of atmosphere. The only lyrics is a single verse:

“Daddy's flown across the ocean,
Leaving just a memory,
Snapshot in the family album,
Daddy what else did you leave for me?
Daddy, what did ya leave behind for me?
All in all it was just a brick in the wall.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.”

The second world war has a lot of visual influence over Water’s creation, and anyone who has watched “The Wall” the movie will concur that the father’s departure is due to him leaving to fight in the war.

Another Brick in The Wall Part 3:

The third part of the “Another Brick in the Wall” set is sort of a conclusion to the brick laying as it were. Appropriately similar to the previous two parts of this trilogy the third part is a short song with very little actually being vocalized and once again we are left with a single chorus to develop this story:

“I don't need no arms around me,
I don't need no drugs to calm me,
I have seen the writing on the wall,
Don't think I need anything at all.
No don't think I'll need anything at all.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were just bricks in the wall.”

The rejection of everyone and everything finally comes. Enough bricks have been laid and the wall is now high enough for the narrator to hide himself away, socially and emotionally from the world. This is a fitting end to the first half of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” the only song to follow “Another Brick in the Wall Part 3” on side two is “Goodbye Cruel World” a lamenting song about letting go of everything and everyone. This is the true metaphor Roger Waters has created, a wall of misery standing too tall to climb, or ever look over. All that is left for the narrator to do is turn his back on the world and say goodbye.

And everything was just bricks in the wall.

I have often pondered over how to begin a conversation about my favorite album. “The Wall” has twenty-six songs in total; inarguably there are multiple launching points. At last I thought, what is a wall, metaphorical or otherwise, but a collection of bricks? Why not begin with those?

- King of Braves

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry

I like Bob Marley; I think everyone does. I do not however, love Bob Marley, I would by lying if I said so. This is slightly unexpected I suppose, because I fall into a category of human being where it is socially expected that I should love Bob Marley. In my youth, I partook in social ritual of marijuana and Bob Marley at many parties, and during that age of enlightenment it is a common experience for the participant to fall in love with Bob Marley’s music. I failed that rite of passage I guess. Though I did listen to multiple iterations of Marley’s greatest hits dozens of times, and I certainly enjoyed it every time, nonetheless, my heart and ear never submitted to the groovy beats of Bob Marley.

I like reggae, again, I suspect just about everyone does. I do not however, love reggae, which likely goes a long way to explain the last paragraph. Again, not to repeat myself, but in my informative years I was exposed to massive amounts of weed and reggae, but my ear was never fully seized by this super chill genre of music, despite enjoying it at length on countless occasions. I deeply appreciate the influence reggae has had on bands I hold very dear, like The Clash, and The Police, and while the source inspiration was cool it was never glorious to me and my likings.

I spent my high times more so as a Pink Floyd and Uriah Heep fan, that is just who I am.

So now that I have established my lukewarm fondness of Bob Marley and reggae, I suppose it is time to get to the point. In an very necessary on going effort to keep myself as calm and strong as possible, I find myself recalling past indulgent pleasures, and while I wait for Trudeau to legalize marijuana, I am forced to re-embrace the cool comfort of the most chill music in the world, and that is inarguably reggae.

I am a poor Marley fan, I have never owned any of his albums and have only listened at length to various versions of his greatest hits, so I am now very familiar with songs like “Jammin,” “Buffalo Soldier” and “I Shot the Sheriff,” but I think his most touching song is possibly “No Woman No Cry.”

A quick, and cheap interpretation of this song would be something to the effect that, “so long as you have no woman in your life, you will have nothing to be sad about.” It is a simple mathematical equation; no woman = no cry. This is naturally incorrect. Not only would a glance at the lyrics dismiss this analysis immediately, but this would be a truly bizarre message for a peaceful, loving man like Marley to preach. Alas I was once guilty of thinking this way, for I was young… and probably too stoned to listen to the lyrics sensibly.

In reality, Marley has created one of his many political songs in “No Woman No Cry.” Marley, being the peaceful and loving man he is, is singing to a female companion and friend not to worry, everything is going to be alright, and before he says those things he says:

No, woman, no cry.

Please take note of the commas, for they bring structure to the sentence, and we can see by the separation of the first “no” from the word “woman,” that Marley is speaking directly to a woman, and he is instructing not to cry.

But why is it important not to cry? Well Marley tells us:

I remember when we used to sit,
In the government yard in Trenchtown,
Observing the hypocrites,
As they would mingle with the good people we meet.
Good friends we have, good friends we’ve lost,
Along the way.
In this great future, you can’t forget your past,
So dry your tears, I say.

The two verses that follow hereafter express a greater sense of social interaction and slightly less political directness, but with or without an element of the political, the general message holds strong all the same. The struggles and troubles of the past, as painful as they may be, cannot be forgotten, but they can be overcome. So, you know, dry your tears.

As I said before Bob Marley was a man of peace and despite the cool embrace of sadness in “No Woman No Cry” there is an overwhelming positive message within. It is not just in the repetition in where Marley flatly states “everything’s going to be alright,” but also in every verse. For in every verse there is this constant remembrance of community; the good people we meet; the making of fire lights; the cooking of cornmeal porridge and the sharing thereof. It is a beautiful sentiment, that together, with cooperation and friendship the only natural outcome is a great future. It is both incredibly uplifting and optimistic. I expect no less from the greatest icon of the most chill music genre ever.

I have always connected with one specific line for completely personal reasons, and it is kind of funny that it has stuck to me for so many years:

My feet is my only carriage,
So I’ve got to push on through.

For me, this has been literally true for most of my life. Admittedly this is a strange line to single out and identify as a personally meaningful but it stuck with me. I mentioned in the last review, Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” how it has taken a frustratingly long time to acquire a driver’s licence, which in the continent of North America is effectively a death sentence to personal transportation, you see sometimes these reviews have a theme, and sometimes that theme is something as tangential as I have walk around too much. On the upside, my legs are strong and I am ready to run a half marathon next week.

Many a marijuana evening I would sit there pondering if Bob Marley had to walk around Kingston as much I have had to walk around Calgary. I wondered if he too was too gooned to drive, or if he was too poor to afford a car and that he and I had this in common. These are important questions, well, at least to me. I mean we both had to push on through, then again mind you, we all do.

“No Woman No Cry” really is a lovely song of humanity and hope, and the casual listening rans the risk of never learning just how beautiful it really is. Even a lukewarm fan like me cannot deny the value and love of a song like “No Woman No Cry.”

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Iggy Pop - The Passenger

Iggy Pop has had a long career. Despite his many albums, songs and tours, Iggy is best known for his early works, both with The Stooges, but also his first few solo albums.

When people think of Iggy Pop most of them probably think of “Lust for Life,” Iggy’s biggest hit song, and what a fantastic song it is. Not only is “Lust for Life” most likely Iggy’s catchiest song, and therefore the best suited for radio play, but in some regards it captures a vital aspect of Iggy’s personality and life, for he indeed had a lust for life. Iggy was a hugely influential rock star who heavily indulged in drugs and partying, truly a man who lusted for life.

After “Lust for Life” the song most people think of is “The Passenger” and both of these songs are from Iggy Pop’s second solo album titled “Lust for Life.” It is a hell of an album “Lust for Life,” and part of that might have something to do with David Bowie. In 1977 Bowie was in Berlin working on his trilogy of albums, “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger.” While there he spent a meaningful amount of time working, and producing albums, with his friend Iggy Pop. The result of this collaboration was Iggy Pop’s first two solo albums “The Idiot” and the afore mentioned “Lust for Life.” Notably the song “China Girl” off of “The Idiot” was later performed by Bowie on his 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”

When punk rockers think of Iggy Pop they are probably more inclined to think of Iggy Pop’s earliest work with The Stooges, and probably most notably the highly important and insanely impressive album “Raw Power” which can rightly be contributed as one of the earliest pioneer works of the punk rock genre.

Despite having been around for so long and having made so many albums and written so many songs, it is interesting that the bulk of Iggy Pop’s work is known primarily just as the “Lust for Life” album and those hit songs that came from it. His work is a deeper well that is worth drinking from, but today I will focus on one of those two hit songs, because it is a song of deeper meaning than initial inspection revealed to me and indeed most.

When I think of Iggy Pop, I often think of drugs. Now could I not? Iggy Pop spent a very unhealthy amount of time on a drug induced rampage, getting himself arrested and disrupting his own concerts. It is fun, and even funny, looking back on some of his more deranged antics, but when observed all at once it is really rather frightening what Iggy put himself through. Iggy Pop is something of akin to The Door’s Jim Morrison, in just how far out of control he was, but a key difference is that somehow Iggy Pop survived and is still alive to this day. Iggy even released a new album recently “Post Pop Depression” which I have been listening to on youtube and it is pretty good.

“The Passenger” is the song I have always held as Iggy’s most enjoyable, or at least, the song that rang in my ear the longest. I felt a unique connection to “The Passenger” because I had a unique take on it. In a very literally sense I was a passenger in life. Due to a combination of factors, it took me a frustrating long time to acquire my driver’s licence, and living in a country like Canada, and a city like Calgary, where the population density is extremely sparse and mass transit being largely non-existent, getting around was extremely difficult, and thus I had to rely on the kindness of friends to drive me, thus I was in a constant position of passenger. There was one upside to this, I was never the designated driver, and thus spent many evenings gooned in the passenger seat being driven around.

Which brings me back to Iggy Pop’s drug habit.

I had always casually assumed that Iggy Pop, like myself, was too gooned to drive and thus found himself in the passenger seat seeing the world through the passenger side window, dazed and confused, but safe and more or less happy. This explanation made sense, Iggy Pop was a drug fiend and presumably could not, or at least should not, have been driving for most of his rock and roll career. How simple of an explanation, how simple an interpretation, naturally it is not the true message.

As time passed and lyrics were listened to more and more, and I learned more about the icon Iggy Pop, I knew “The Passenger” had more to it than a simple observation of being escorted about while intoxicated. I later learned that the song was written while Iggy Pop was riding the S Bahn in Berlin, and this connected with me because I have been to Berlin and I got around exclusively using the S Bahn. Still there was something more going on in these words in this song, it was much less to do with the literal act of travelling, and so much more to do with being led.

“The Passenger” is truly about not being in control. We can link this to alcohol and drugs and having handicapped facilities and thus no longer being in control, but as I said before, this is deeper than that. “The Passenger” is about not being in control of your own life.

There are so many variables in the world, so many factors and consideration raining upon us at all times, and they are in a constant state of flux, often times the sheer volume and unpredictability of life is so overwhelming that everything feels like chaos. There is no solution to this stress, or feeling of being powerless, we simple must soldier on, make the best of what we have, and manage as best we can with what we can control. We can let go, and let the current of the river take us. We can be a passenger and watch the world from under glass and believe that everything was made for us. Try our best to stay strong and calm.

This too connects with me, and I suspect virtually everyone who has ever lived.

In a fever dream, not long ago I came to realize that everything I had control over in my life was extremely well managed, it was only the elements where others possessed influence over me that were seriously harming and hurting me. As frustrating as all this is, it made me in no way unique, we are all passengers unable to take perfect control of our lives. Sometimes we can only go where the S Bahn takes us. Sometimes all we can is ride, and ride and ride.

“Lust for Life” expresses a strong element of Iggy Pop’s personality and life, and equally so does “The Passenger,” for this life is no less, and in fact probably more so at the time of writing this song, chaotic, and he was surely both literally and symbolically a passenger. So, we all are too.

- King of Dreams

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Led Zeppelin - Gallows Pole

Led Zeppelin has a lot more cover songs than most people know; this is fundamentally true for two reasons. The first explanation resides in the simple truth that Led Zeppelin are the greatest band ever, so naturally their versions of songs are vastly better known than the originals. The second factor to note is that all Zeppelin covers are very different from the originals.

A quick summary of early days Zeppelin covers contains:

From Led Zeppelin One:
  • “You Shook Me” originally by Muddy Waters.
  • “I Can’t Quit You Baby” originally by Willie Dixon.
  • “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” written by Anne Johannson.
  • “How Many More Times” contains a verse from Albert King’s “The Hunter.”
From Led Zeppelin Two:
  • “Lemon Song” is a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues.”
  • “Bring it On Home” originally by Sonny Boy Williams.
From Led Zeppelin Three:
  • “Gallows Pole” originally by Leadbelly... sort of.
Perhaps the most interesting cover is “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” as it was a popular song of unknown origin. At the time of recording the first Zeppelin album the most popular version was by Joan Baez from a live recording which had no credits to the author, so Zeppelin presumed that it was an old song whose creator was forgotten. It was not until the 1980’s when the original writer, Anne Johannson, was made aware of Zeppelin’s existence and their cover of her song, which at that point was really her own fault, who the hell lives through the sixties and seventies and never discovers Zeppelin? I found this article to be a nice explanation of the history of the song:

We can see from the decreasing presence of cover songs that Zeppelin was naturally coming more and more into their own as time went on. This is very common for musical groups, especially when it comes to live performances, song writers refine their craft and their ability to create original material comes more naturally with time. This is why Zeppelin Four onward is effectively all original material. But of all the covers, and quasi covers Zeppelin embarked upon, the sole example on their third album “Gallows Pole” is my favorite.

“Gallows Pole” was among the first Zeppelin songs I heard on the radio when I was young and discovering music for the first time. Along with “The Immigrant Song” it was “Gallows Pole” that made it very important to me to get a copy of Led Zeppelin Three as quickly as I could.

I dabble in guitar, and the only Zeppelin song I ever came close to learning with any kind of ability is “Gallows Pole.” More accurately I was capable of playing one part in particular which is the fast back and forth between A major and G major, this serves as a bridge between verses and the chorus, and it is very fun to play. I know I am stating the obvious here but Jimmy Page’s guitar on “Gallows Pole” is freaking fantastic.

Or is it Page’s guitar work? After all this song was written by Leadbelly. The answer is still yes, Page’s guitar work is fantastic. Leadbelly’s original version is very different from the final manifestation we hear on Led Zeppelin Three.

Leadbelly - Gallows Pole

Is it really Leadbelly's guitar work we are comparing to Page's?  The answer is interestingly only so much, as Leadbelly never claimed to have written "Gallows Pole" he claimed it was an old folk song he had learned somewhere.  So unlike "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" the "Gallows Pole" is literally an old folk song whose original creator is forgotten. 

In recent years, it has become somewhat common among music critics to accuse Led Zeppelin, and specifically Jimmy Page, of being thieves of African American music. I do not really agree with the venom of that accusation. Zeppelin always gave credit to their inspirations but also they changed so much in all of their cover songs. Listen to Leadbelly’s “Gallows Pole” the lyrics are modified, the guitar solo in Zeppelin’s version is completely original, the rhythm and bass does not exist in Leadbelly's version and that bridge I mentioned earlier, the A major G major combination, it does not exist in Albert King’s version. Zeppelin’s cover is barely that, it is more so a complete re-imagining on the song’s concept.

It is not like we accuse Gounod of stealing from Bach when he created “Ave Maria,” despite how very different the final product is from it’s inspiration “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” I feel like that is what I am hearing when I listen to a song like “Gallows Pole,” it is undeniable that it is not an original song, but what Zeppelin did with it made it a unique entity all on its own, just like the “Ave Maria.”

Go and listen to Joan Baez version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” nothing like Zeppelin’s, and the same goes for every other example listed above.  

Potential controversy aside, we, humanity, win in the end, because we get multiple great songs by multiple great musicians. We have the blues to thank for rock and roll, and we have rock and roll to thank for giving us all a reason to live.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Monday, April 17, 2017

Led Zeppelin - How Many More Times

Music, and all art, is a perpetual motion machine. Ideas grow from other ideas and spawn new inspiration in an endless cycle of connectivity. There is no beginning, and there is no end.

Led Zeppelin is the greatest thing that ever happened. As someone who has dedicated a large amount of his free time expressing his love of music online it follows that my favorite band of all time would carry tremendous importance to me. Like all things music, Led Zeppelin, are part of the endless evolution of music and while they have their obvious admirers who have followed in their footsteps their heroes are not so well known, largely because Zeppelin eclipsed them all in every way.

I love the blues, and I doubt I would love it so, if it not for Led Zeppelin. This is one of those working backwards discoveries, where I love one band so much I want to know where they got their ideas so unavoidable the eventuality of discover moves in the reverse chronological direction.

The first installment of Led Zeppelin, their self titled debut album, is the clearest example of direct blues inspiration on them. There are three straight cover songs on Zeppelin One, “You Shook Me” by Muddy Waters, “I Can’t Quit You Baby” by Willie Dixon and while not a blues cover “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is a folk song originally written by Anne Johannson, more on that next review.

It does not end there though, possible my favorite song from this iconic album is “How Many More Times.” It is this song which may have dubbed John Paul Jones bass guitar playing as “galloping” as the punch behind the bass is at it’s highest. Everything about “How Many More Times” feels like a blues inspire rock song, and it is doubtless that it is, but unlike the afore mentioned covers this is primarily original material, and I am unable to pinpoint any direct connection to previous blues song, though that tragically may have something to do with my ignorance of blues music.

There is one clear blues inspiration in “How Many More Times” and that is the melody at the end of the song where two unique changes in pace and sound emerge. The first being Robert Plant breaking into an ode to a woman named Rosie:

“Oh, Rosie, oh girl.
Oh, Rosie, oh girl.
Steal away now, steal away.
Steal away now, steal away.
Little Robert Anthony wants to come and play.
Oh, why don’t you come to me baby?
Steal away.”

For the longest time when I was young I was convinced this was the beginning of blues medley and that “Oh Rosie” must be a cover of sorts, but with the all human knowledge in one place device (the internet) I have been unable to confirm this as true, which leads me to believe this is actual a true to form classic ramble from our friend Robert Plant.

The only meaningful connection I can draw between Rosie and the blues is the old African American work, or negro prison, blues song titled, simply, “Rosie.” Which is a song about the men working and in the distance, there is a woman named Rosie who none of the men can ever speak to or touch, but she tempts them daily. Which would make sense if this influenced Robert Plant in some way.

"Rosie" - Recorded at Mississippi State Penitentiary:

Then we have a second shift in style and with Robert singing:

“Well they call me the hunter, that’s my name,
They call me the hunter, that’s how I got my fame.
Ain’t no need to hide, Ain’t no need to run.
‘Cause I’ve got you in the sights of my……… gun.”

This portion of “How Many More Times” is a blues cover. The original is by Albert King and is titled "The Hunter.”

Albert King - The Hunter

Albert King, I have talked about him before in my review of Derek and the Domino’s “Layla” in which I discussed how his song “As the Years Go Passing By” was partial inspiration for the guitar in that song. You can read all about it here:

In live versions, the medley is longer and includes more rambling that I have been forced to believe are additional creations of Plant’s mind as I have been unable to draw any connection and usual it functions as an extension to the “Oh Rosie” portion of song.

I very much like the BBC sessions which includes the short repetition of “It’s alright, it’s alright,” which perhaps too little to find a proper connection to a blues song, or more likely it is Plant doing his rambling thing. However, the inclusion of:

“Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg.
Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg.
If you don’t squeeze me the way I want you to baby,
Swear I’m gonna kick you out of bed.”

Will be immediately identified as part of Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” from their second album, which is a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues,” which is yet another blues cover by Led Zeppelin.

Robert Johnson - Traveling Riverside Blues

I read somewhere that Plant would break into Buffalo Springfield’s “On The Way Home” in some live versions, but I have never heard a version like that, and I have listened to many versions of this song live; so interesting if true.

It is a fine thing looking to our hero’s heroes. The first couple Zeppelin albums we see just how much blues and African American music meant to Jimmy Page and the boys, and in turn I appreciate all the unique changes they made to all of these songs, even their covers dramatically differ from the originals, but I will be discussing more of that in the next review.

- King of Braves

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tegan and Sara - Arrow & Sentimental Tune


Sentimental Tune:

Of all my favorite bands Tegan and Sara must be the strangest odd one out. I listen to a lot of metal and classic rock, so the indie rock pop style of Tegan and Sara, while enjoyable to all, in theory should not rank that high in my personally admiration, but they do. I suppose it is not that strange when you consider my fondness of indie rock in general. I listen to a lot of Arcade Fire, Metric, Interpol, Bloc Party and several others. I guess it is just I identify more with the rock and rollers of classic rock and metal and a lot less with the hipster variety fare most of us expect from the indie crowd.

But hey man, it’s all about the music.

In 2009 Tegan and Sara released their sixth studio album “Sainthood” and it was a departure from their previously more mellow and emotional indie and folk rock styling and engaged more so into good old rock and roll. Naturally “Sainthood” is my favorite Tegan and Sara album, granted there are a variety of nuances we could discuss, but the broad picture item of this album is by being more rock and roll added to my extra enjoyment.

So, it is highly appropriate that I like “Sainthood” so much, given my natural rock and roll ways, and this apparently puts me in the minority. “Sainthood” was not overly well received by critics and fans who were still madly in love with “The Con,” Tegan and Sara’s previous album, an album that is the apex of their indie rock catalogue. This stronger embrace of rock and roll was the first meaningful change in style Tegan and Sara had ever engaged in, and they would find huge success with their next two albums “Heartthrob,” a very pop rock album, and recently “Love You to Death,” a very eighties inspired album. Those last two albums are probably Tegan and Sara’s best selling albums to date, nonetheless “Sainthood” was the first experiment departing from their indie rock styling, and is now becoming somewhat overlooked.

I am a firm believer that the best albums should start and end strong, and my two favorite tracks from “Sainthood” is the first and second last, which creates a nice journey from beginning to end.

The first track is “Arrow” a short but punchy rock song with a very striking intro that turns into the best, and most rock and roll, rhythm on the album or on any Tegan and Sara song for that matter. I believe it was very wise to make this the first song on the album as it has the greatest energy of any track and brings the listener in. My first two Tegan and Sara concretes I attended both opened with “Arrow” and while not being their most popular song served as a fantastic opening to the show and really got the crowd pumped up.

While “Sainthood” does technically end with “Someday” I find the true end note to be “Sentimental Tune.” Again, as a rock and roll machine, I should, in theory, appreciate “Arrow” as my uppermost favorite in the Tegan and Sara catalogue, but such is the duality of man, I like the mellow and sweet empowering “Sentimental Tune” most. I believe “Sentimental Tune” is about someone refusing to allow someone else to love them, a cynical romantic maybe? This sentimental tune is meant to soften the hard heart of the nervous would be lover who is for reasons unknown refusing to believe in, or allow an embrace of, love. Which is, you know, sweet.

I particularly like the opening line in the chorus “Hard-hearted don’t worry I’m ready for a fight.” While tangential at best, my complete lack of a flight mechanism means I am always ready for a fight, which makes me relate to this song in a completely unintentionally demission.

Long time readers of this blog will know I really like Sara, and perhaps it is not a coincident that both “Arrow” and “Sentimental Tune” are both Sara songs. A strange fact about Tegan and Sara that many do not know is that they never wrote songs together until the album “Heartthrob.” Each would independently write songs and then collaborate when recording. This adds an extra element of personality and a note of interest when digging dipper into their music catalogue and gradually gaining an ear for not only the very slight differences in their voices but also their emotions and expressions. The later of which is actually more distinctive.

There is a weak, but very real connection between “Arrow” and “Sentimental Tune.” In “Arrow” Sara is asking for a very tough love, real assessment of herself from someone she loves and in the hope they will fight for her,

“Would you touch me?
Cling and wage an intimid fight for me?”

The sort of fighting for someone Sara later expresses in “Sentimental Tune” only this time as the active agent, fighting for the tough love. It is not the strongest connection I admit, but I have always felt there was something there, if not is symbolism or narrative, then at least in Sara’s mind. She wants someone to fight for her, like she would fight for them? A reasonable guess into the mind and heart of Sara Quin I suspect, but also a fair description of most people’s wishes I imagine.

The times I have sat to listen to “Sainthood” in full, I find myself repeating the second final track or starting the album over to start the gambit again with “Arrow. Normally the custom of this music blog to talk about one song, but these rules were made by me, and made to be broken, because why not. I struggle to think of a time in the near future where I might revisit this album or band, so it made sense to discuss the beginning and end of the album all at once. A two-song review; think I’ll have to do that again sometime soon.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Tea Party - Release

On March 25th I will attend my tenth Tea Party concert. The Tea Party are more than just a band for me, they are like old friends, and while I have never met any of them personally, I have seen them so many times and I know their music so thorough and so well, I have created a stronger connection to them than any other band, probably ever. Everyone has their local flavour of music that they love and most of the world does not nearly appreciate as much as they do; and for me it is The Tea Party. The Tragically Hip may be Canada’s best kept secret but The Tea Party are my dudes, they are the band I constantly go to see, they are the band I love uppermost.

The twenty-fifth of March will be significant for me for the reasons already mentioned, but this concert tour itself is significant. This is the twenty-year anniversary tour of their third studio album “Transmission.” I was a too young to see the original tour for “Transmission” but still I have been going to Tea Party concerts for nearly two decades now and finally I will get to hear all the songs from “Transmission” I have yet to hear live. I have read in interviews how difficult it was to perform songs like “Transmission” and “Babylon” live, and I do not believe I have ever heard less well known tracks that I love like “Emerald,” so this will be a great experience for me. It is all very exciting.

One of the first albums I ever purchased on CD was Tea Party’s “Transmission” and it was the first album that was not released prior to my birth that I purchased on CD. You could probably surmise from the consistency of my Tea Party concert attendance that the “Triptych” tour when it came to Calgary was my first ever live show. Lastly the song that made me buy that “Transmission” CD was “Release.”

I had really enjoyed songs on the radio, because Tea Party used to get played on the radio here in Canada, like “Fire in The Head” and “Temptation.” I had also heard and thoroughly enjoyed their first two albums, but there was something about “Release” that got its hooks into me and made me really want to own that album, plus “Temptation” was on the same album so it seemed like a good purchase.

I was not disappointed; obviously.

“Release” was written in support of the White Ribbon Campaign, a Canadian born global movement to end violence against women, and with even a cursory glance at the lyrics it is clear there is a concern for women and fear of what a man might do. I have always known this, not so much the White Ribbon Campaign connection but I always knew this song was about a man wanting the woman he loves to be safe and free, from him.

It was dark, and it brooding, and contain a self loathing and sadness that I really connected with when I was young. I loved a great many things, but very little loved me back. There was a darkness in my heart comfortable with combat and violence, but there was also a temperament of compassion and devote desire to help. The narrative of a man relinquishing his emotional hold on a woman for her betterment, for her safety and freedom was a story that was swarming around in my head and Tea Party brought it to life in musical form.

While “Release” is clearly a song that is pro women’s’ rights, and that is great, but the focus for me was always on requited love, because of course it was. It would be equally easy to interpret “Release” as a man letting go of the love he desires but will never obtain. All the hurt and ugliness inside this man’s hurt that consumes him will not be allowed to contaminate another, certainly not the one he loves, and;

“I want you to be free,
I want you to be free, from me.”

It is really rather sweet when you look at it from that angle. In this way “Release” contrasts the last review HIM’s “For You” very nicely. One is the stubborn refusal to dismiss a deep deadly love, and the other is salvation from it. Both are unrequited, one is an emotional prison, the other, a release.

Sometimes there is a continuity to these reviews.

The Tea Party’s “Release” is, as have as far as I know, the best song ever written to promote an end to violence against women, but also, in my opinion, one of the best songs in Tea Party fantastic playlist. It is a song so rich in conflicted emotion how could it be anything less?

- King of Braves