Sunday, February 24, 2013

Judas Priest - Turbo Lover



In 1986 Judas Priest released their tenth studio album “Turbo.” Known for being one of the premiere hard rock/metal bands Judas Priest is expected to write and perform songs that are heavy and hit hard. Like any good band Judas Priest evolved over time, and by the time their reached their tenth studio album it should have been expected that the sounds and atmosphere might be a little different from the original concepts offered by the band. However as unreasonable as some people always tend to be, there are some in the hard rock/metal community who consider “Turbo” a controversial album; controversial because it was a more electric synthetic sound than the previous nine Judas Priests albums.

I would have been two years old when “Turbo” came out so it is kind of funny looking back on the supposed controversy surrounding “Turbo.” It is easy to take for granted the subtle changes in a band like Judas Priest because they never strayed far from their core concept, and also because when I look back I see the whole picture, all at once, and I think “That’s Judas Priest, that body of work is Judas Priest.” I cannot imagine Judas Priest without my favorite song of theirs “Turbo Lover” they just would not be the same to me, and as you can easily put together “Turbo Lover” is the flagship song on the album “Turbo.”

The way I feel about “Turbo Lover,” and the hate directed towards it, is similar to the way I feel about KISS’s “I was made for Loving You.” I have often heard criticisms about “I was made for Loving You” as being a disco song, which I always thought was odd because I felt that “I was made for Loving You”, was one of Kiss’s best songs. Technically those critics are right; there are disco influences in “I was made of Loving You” but even knowing that my opinion on the matter is not swayed. I see KISS as a band that created many good songs and all of those songs together sums up KISS... sort of, KISS is complicated.

Judas Priest are not exactly poets so there is not a lot of deep conversation surrounding a song like “Turbo Lover.” “Turbo Lover” is a hard rocking song and there is little more to say about it than that. Or is there?

The first and most obvious interpretation of “Turbo Lover” would be that it is an aggressive love song. The fast rising tempo and heavier moments in the song fit well with the mood of aggressive lustful intense love. But then comes the second obvious analogy, the intensity and aggression of this “love” might be a little too much, and maybe this is a song about lust. “Then we rise together” this line makes a lot of sense if you recall that lead singer Rob Halford is a homosexual, so him and his lover rising together, well you get it.

“You won't hear me,
But you'll feel me
Without warning, something’s dawning, listen.
Then within your senses,
You'll know you're defenceless
How your heart beats, when you run for cover
Your cant retreat I spy like no other.”

These opening lyrics are very suggestive of our third and darker interpretation. Perhaps the intensity and aggression of this song about lust is a little too much, and maybe this is actually a song about stalking. I don’t want to compare “Turbo Lover” to Police’s “Every Breath you Take,” but that is what I am going to do. There is an unhealthy dominance/desire for control in both relationships being described to us in both songs. Whereas “Every Breath you Take” is clearly about the emotional mind set of a stalker and meant to be taken seriously, “Turbo Lover” is a little more light hearted in addressing the dark subject matter more or less celebrating the hunt and obviously a playful song not meant to be taken seriously.

A forth, and yet again obvious, analogy for “Turbo Lover” comes from the metaphorical use of machine references.

“Wrapped in horsepower, driving into fury
Changing gear I pull you tighter to me”

And;

“We hold each other closer, as we shift to overdrive
And everything goes rushing by, with every nerve alive
We move so fast it seems as though we've taken to the sky
Love machines in harmony, we hear the engines cry”

There are many songs about comparing vehicles to sex, so this is hardly new grounds Judas Priest are treading on. When you remember all the leather and biker culture Judas Priest was part of this analogy fits perfectly. This last interpretation is the best bet for getting into the minds of the song writing behind Judas Priest. Heavy machinery love making is both awesome and fun.

So which is it, love, lust, stalking or machine metaphor? All the above I think, a hot soup of many things?

So is “Turbo Lover” a meaningful song? No, not really, but it is a great song, and I would go so far as to say “Turbo Lover” is a subtly clever. “Turbo Lover” plays with fun ideas of love and lust in a hostile yet celebrated way, and while we might think such topics as shallow I must ask this, what is metal if not a celebration of power, fury and lust? It is a song about love machines what more could you want? It is hardly fair to forge a criticism out of that. The world needs cock rock songs!

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Magnetic Fields - The Book of Love



The song “The Book of Love” is a simple one. The structure is simple, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, ending chorus. The rhythm has only two sets, one for the verses and one for the choruses, and they are similar to each other. There is no lead instrument as the melody is done entirely by the vocals. When I reflect on the simple song structure of “The Book of Love” I realize it must be deliberate since the song’s message describes the simplicity of love.

“The Book of Love” was the first single off of Peter Gabriel’s 2010 “Scratch My Back,” an album that is a collection of cover songs. Gabriel is still working on a follow up album called “I’ll Scratch Yours,” where he has various musicians cover his songs. So far the likes of Lou Reed and Bon Iver have already contributed to the project; also Stephin Merritt has committed himself to the effort. Stephin Merritt is significant in this dialogue since he is the man who wrote “The Book of Love.”

Like most people I was introduced to “The Book of Love” through Peter Gabriel and only after some time did I learn that; A) it was a cover song, and B) who wrote the original. The truth of the matter is that “The Book of Love” is a Magnetic Fields’ song from their 1999 album “69 Love Songs.” The pun in Peter Gabriel’s “Scratch My Back” album is intended to suggest that all these cover songs are other musicians helping out Peter Gabriel and with “I’ll Scratch Yours” he is returning the favour by letting others cover his songs. However in the example of The Magnetic Fields, I think by covering “The Book of Love” Peter Gabriel did them more of a favour than the other way around. Peter Gabriel’s version of “The Book of Love” is the best known version and has reignited the popularity of the original, The Magnetic Fields, and “69 Love Songs.”

Peter Gabriel's fantastic cover:

“69 Love Songs” is aptly named, the three disc concept album has exactly sixty-nine songs (twenty-three each disc) all of which are about love. Most of the songs are under the two minute mark, which I suppose is to be expected since there is sixty-nine of them. When creating “69 Love Songs” Stephin Merritt’s original goal was to write one hundred love songs but in the end he settled for sixty-nine, fair enough, most musician would fare no better I am sure. Also the original concept for the album was to be a musical revue, which apparently is a theatrical show of music, dance and sketches. Everything about Merritt’s creative process sounds overly artistic to me, which makes it all the less surprising that he failed to make this original complicated vision of musical love come to fruition. What was accomplished however was a large collection of short, simple, enjoyable songs, all of which are about love. “The Book of Love’s” whole message of simple love is ironically challenged by the very album it is on. Merritt felt the need to dedicate sixty-eight other tracks to the topic. So how simple is love?

This paradoxical message that love is simple and yet an endless topic of discussion is captured in every aspect of the song “The Book of Love” as well as the album “69 Love Songs” as a whole. The majority of the songs on the album are short and to the point but there is so many of them. According to “The Book of Love” love is many simple things; love is a story in a long boring book; love is a study full of facts and figures; love is an embarrassing ordeal; love is a dance; love is music. What does all this fine poetry tells us? I think it tells us that we make a bigger deal about love then what is really going on. We see it everywhere, and selectively, potentially, in anyone, and we’re not wrong, since love is something we create, but it is so ethereal it is almost impossible to pin down, which is probably why Merritt needed to write sixty-nine songs about it.

There is little more else to say. What more is there to say then?

“The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing
But I, I love it when you read to me
And you, you can read me anything

The book of love has music in it
In fact, that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb, but
I, I love it when you sing to me, and
You, you can sing me anything

The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know, but
I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings”

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

- Colin Kelly

Friday, February 1, 2013

Gotye's Amazing Animated Music Videos


On August 29th 2012 my good friend Mr. Johnson and I saw Gotye live in Calgary. It was a good and unique show I really learned to appreciate the direction of Gotye’s music. The man uses a variety of percussion instruments and uses such sounds as the primary building blocks of his music; it really showed that he was a drummer in another band. Also on an unimportant side note, it was the first time I had ever been anywhere in Calgary where women outnumbered men. 

One of the first songs Gotye played was “Easy Way Out.” The performance was accompanied by an animated video of a man running and quick shots of flash backs involving some kind of alien bug performing tests on this said running man. The colors were all red and black and it was a charming visual aid to a short and sweet song.

Easy Way Out

Truth be told, I was not a big fan of the song “State of the Art” going into the concert, however Gotye’s live performance was enough to change my mind on the matter. Like so many other Gotye songs “State of the Art” is built around the rhythm, but live, wow, the bass in “State of the Art” live shakes you, literally. In addition I had never seen the animated music video belonging to “State of the Art.” A family is overcome, consumed and transformed by their new high tech musical devise the “Cotillion,” which is not a real thing... I think.

State of the Art

Things took a turn for the strange with the song “Seven Hour Backseat Driver.” Having never seen this video or even heard the song before I was in for a bit of a surprise. The song is an instrumental but judging from the video it is a song about sexual frustration and acceptance. An elephant is functioning as a car hire for a black bird when they enter a shady part of town where she sees too much. There is a barrage of implied sexual imagery and needless to say I was not expecting this. However I was entertained.

Seven Hour Backseat Driver

“Dig Your Own Hole” is the bonus track from “Making Mirrors.” As a consequence I had never heard the song before. This is the video that made me want to compile all of Gotye’s animated videos and say something about it. I really like this video of black and green. A film noir, drug induced space train adventure. The individual motions of animation and the still images in this video are in theory simple production, but the creative process is heavy. It is charming the simple and realistic way the cigarette moves in the shadowy figures mouth, and the way it burns green and stands out draws our attention to it. The conflict as strange and confusing as it is, is strongly felt; this man is trying very hard to avoid that... head thing? The running animation with the perspective spinning creates a feeling of chaos, and also inescapability. It is a really good video, my favorite... well second favourite.

Dig Your Own Hole
 
There were a few songs I was hoping to hear when I went to see Gotye. It was safe to assume he would play “Somebody I used to Know” so I held little suspense surrounding that song. The song I had my figures crossed for was “Bronte.” I love the song “Bronte” and part of the reason is the fantastic animated video it has. A song that is essentially about the loss of a pet, the mystic wilder beast in the video add that level of child like magic that the song is trying to provoke. There is a touch of “Princess Mononoke” here.

Bronte

So here we have five delightful animated music videos from one musical artist. How many musician produce this many music videos that are fully animated? Other than Daft Punk or Gorillaz? I like the art direction in all five of these videos. I know they are using flash a lot here, I do not know if that matters to anyone, but flash is the tool of amateur animators, take a trip to newgrounds - http://www.newgrounds.com/ if you do not believe me. There are so many videos there that are very well crafted and are the hard work of amateurs. What does this about Gotye? I believe he is given some struggling animators a chance to shine by letting them create his music videos. And to that I say, good work.

Inviting additional artistic talent and direction from additional mediums of art is the perfect way to enrich everyone’s creativity, for imagination feeds off of itself. I think Gotye is probably a hell of a great guy; he has found work for his colleagues in a different field of creativity and has simultaneously benefited from it by gaining such unique music videos.

If you thought Gotye was a one hit wonder with “Somebody I Used to Know” I have to strongly disagree. There is a lot of good stuff going on here, and in every possible direction.

P.S.

I will always be partial to the “Dig Your Own Hole” video. I first saw it in concert with my good friend Mr. Johnson and we have a running joke about a space train who sells drugs and works as a DJ (long story), and this video had a train, seemingly in space, and seemingly with drug inspired imagery. What are the odds of all of that coming together on the night of August 29, 2012? Good times.