Tuesday, June 2, 2009

011: Fuck Shyness

I was at the AMC theatre recently watching The Brothers Bloom, which is being criminally critically underrated, and, as it's showing in only 173 theatres across the continent, will make far less money than it should. It's also the best movie I've had the pleasure to watch, in theatres or otherwise, in a very long time, and I urge you all to see it while it's still playing. As the movie came to its end, and the screen, as it is wont to, faded to black, I realized that the music playing over the credits was amazing. My friends and I all left the place before I could stay for the whole of it, but I knew I had to hunt that song down. So I did.

It's the second-to-last song on the Brothers Bloom soundtrack, titled "The Perfect Con" and my beef with it is this: The song is a cocktease. It's almost 7 minutes long, it spends the first 3 and a half minutes transitioning slowly from the movie's softly beautiful and emotional ending to the beginning of the credit-rolling, and by the time it reaches its climax, it plays a fucking amazing little riff two times, fucks around for a bit, comes back up with the exact same keyboard lead-in for said amazing riff, and then plays something else entirely instead, followed by two minutes of crap. I spent 99 cents at the iTunes store for about 15 seconds of great music and 6:28 of nothing-special. It's not the expenditure that angers me, though. It's that Nathan Johnson, the guy who wrote the song, and also Brothers Bloom director Rian Johnson's cousin, for whatever reason, would not repeat this genius riff so much as one more time.

I wish I could say this was the first time such a thing has happened to me. It isn't. Musicians, though I love them dearly, like to play mind games with us listeners. All too frequently I find myself listening to a song over and over, simply because the catchiest, best, most listenable part of a song is far, far too short, repeated too infrequently, if at all, or both. It's like the goddamn songwriters are too shy to let us appreciate their genius. Christ! All I want is to rock out to this little wonderfully climactic portion of your song! Throw me a bone here!

Now, some people go too far in the other direction. Yes, such a thing is possible. It is completely possible, as well, to ruin a song by over-repeating some part of it, no matter how good it sounded when the band first wrote it. And some people actually make good music by only using extremely short snippets of awesome music. But at the end of the day, I look to professional musicians for a balance; a harmony, if you will. I want good goddamn music, not 15-20 seconds of good goddamn music stuck in the middle of an otherwise uninteresting—or good, but not great—song.

A few examples:

Jigsaw Falling Into Place, by Radiohead: Probably my favourite song on In Rainbows. The mood here is wonderful. Intro is very OK-Computer-creepy. Unfortunately, Thom's nnn-nnn crooning in the background, which sounds FUCKING COOL underneath the vocals in the first verse, is completely absent from the climactic last verse. Boo-urns.

Dark Island City, by Crime in Stereo: I really loved the guitar tone on The Troubled Stateside. In that vein, this whole song is pure amazingness due to the main riff. Unfortunately, it's only 2:06 long. And there are about four lines of lyrics. It feels like the skeleton of a great song that never came to be.

Confessions of a Revolutionary Bourgeois, Part 3, by The Sainte Catherines: Check the guitar part from 1:24-1:40 and then to 2:13 to 2:29 and ask yourself why that guy barely plays at all on the rest of the song. I guess that's one of the problems inherent to having three guitarists? Anyway, there were lots of other great songs on Dancing for Decadence not plagued by this problem. (See: the bass riff building into the "hey! hey!" ending in "If There's Black Smoke Over a Bridge, It's Over", for instance.)

Owner Operator, by No Trigger: This song is probably still the best on Canyoneer. But just as the chorus gets reaallly amazing on the third repetition, the song ends. Total bullshit move.

Brandy Alexander, by Feist: The "it goes down easy" segment from 2:05 to 2:33 really makes this song. The rest of it? Kinda ehh. Nice, but not nearly as catchy.

Straight to Hell, by The Clash: The fucking intro riff! Goddamn! They only use it two times, and they don't really incorporate any elements from it into the rest of the song. At least M.I.A. saved the day on that one.

Anyway, if you share my beef, let me know, and I encourage you to post other good-but-frustrating examples.