Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Song Review (Yes it's Madness)

While I do like the band, no one should get the idea that I like every single song, single, album, b-side, video, or any paraphernalia having to do with that British band.

For instance, their first singles, "The Prince" (a tribute to Prince Buster), and "One Step Beyond," one of their most recognized singles and biggest songs, are songs I never got into or had much interest in. By the way, "One Step Beyond" was their biggest, most well-known song in the U.K. and Europe and of their fans. In America and Canada, it was "Our House."

The other day was another instance of this, although I hadn't really properly heard the song. For some reason, I knew about their song "Johnny The Horse," though I wasn't interested at all in listening to it even though I never really have. The opening line "Johnny the horse was kicked to death, he died for entertainment" kind of put me off at first.

Finally, I decided to listen to it, to try it out. First I tried the song. I knew that Chas Smash played acoustic guitar on it, which was completely new as none of their songs had that instrument, except the beginning of "In the middle of the Night." It was written by him, too.

It was almost a whole new feel with the guitar. It actually kind of reminded me of the kind of folk music you'd find in the Maritimes here in Canada. Like in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island.

The lyrics were way more deep than the opening line.
Way deeper. They basically told the story of a man's life. How he spent it and all. It was actually quite interesting, even sweet. What struck me was the line "Will you remember his name?" It implies that this man had a life, but not exactly the greatest one. He was a good person but his life kind of went downhill, but he was a person to remember. A person who loved. The music made me think of going on an expedition and having a good time on it, with friends and comrads. The chorus could be a little more strong. Half of the song describes his life and how he grew up, then finishes with a combination of "Will you remember his name?" and "Dododododo-do, dododododododo whew!"

I then proceded to the music video, which had a much larger impact on me. It used morphing technology (which was cool at first), which transferred through the scenes. During the chorus, Suggs became Mark Bedford, who became Mike Barson, and so on. But the biggest part of the video was the visual depiction of the man's life. Starting with his birth and ending with him lying on his deathbed, it really chronicled the lyric's story effectively.

The most effective, intriging, best part of the video that really hits home is the memory flashes near the end. While the music segues into a sort of quiet bit that compliments the flashes, it goes through a whole bunch of the previous scenes like they are memories - like it starts with a photo of him and his mother and father when he was young, then it changes to a scene of him kissing a girl at age 12, then so on, and it goes through this all in quick succession. After that finishes, trumpets start up, sounding proud and strong, and the man dies. Suggs, who had been standing in each scene singing the lyrics, narrating, reaches out and closes his eyelids.

It's really actually a sad song that's honoring the subject of it. It's actually quite sweet, regardless of the repetitive 'dodododos' of the chorus. The rest of the band are in it, playing other people, like the docter when he is born for instance, or other players in a childhood football game. There's a scene where they're standing in front of a church, and they throw all their hats up in the air during one of the last choruses, interlaced with scenes of them happily joking and heckling each other like old friends.

It's one of the most descriptive, thoughful, sweet, interesting, and well-played out videos I've ever seen, in a time where just about no music video these days make sense or employ sexual promiscuity to garner attention.

Hard to believe that I once avoided the song. It's really quite good and honorable. In fact, Chas Smash commented that the song was based on how he used to pass by two tramps, and one time one of them was crying because his friend had been kicked to death in an abandoned building he was attempting to sleep in. Really emphasizes that life should be celebrated and honored, no matter who lived it. I think that was what the song was trying to deliver.

Good, beautiful song, regardless of the diminutive chorus. According to Chas Smash, player of the acoustic guitar, writer of the song, and actor portraying grown-up Johnny in the music video, the name 'Johnny the Horse' is a kind of tag the Scots or Irish might give to a strong-drinking, hard type of man. I guess that fits.

I really recommend listening to that song, or watching the video above. While in all essences it's kind of sad, it's all very happy, exciting, and sweet to watch someone's life and honor it.
And the morphing effects were kind of cool.

-Justin C. 

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