Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not Home Today

It's a song I'm going to review, and by Madness, like usual.

It's one of their earlier songs, from their second album, Absolutely (1980). To me, it has a very ska-like sound to it, like a lot of their early songs. It wasn't a single or anything, just one of the songs on the album.

Written by Suggs and Mark Bedford (the bass player) it talks about a wrongly accused man going to jail. The jury is unified and not hesitated in convicting him. He can only wish he could turn back time, 'not guilty' is all he can say. As a result his neighbors and friends all wonder and gossip about why he's not home today during their afternoon tea-time as exemplified in the chorus.

What I really like about the song is (as always) the sound. The piano/keyboard, sax, and bass all really sound great to me. The general sound makes me think of brightness, and an atmosphere and look of a place located somewhere near the Mediterranean Sea. The atmosphere and look and feel of an apartment with an open balcony with beads in the doorways instead of doors, kind of a bit hot and stuffy in a late afternoon with passing rainclouds and sun. The bass and piano plus the keyboard all evoke that for me. The part of the song after the first chorus (but right before the second verse), where it's just piano chords and keyboard make me think of a road heading south, with water on one side and distant bleached apartment towers in the distance, open windows and a sort of late afternoon rain cloud behind them in the sky. I think I get the image largely from a photograph I saw on my grandparent's fridge once of basically the same thing. 

The piano about 1:05 minutes in also makes me think of someone, a girl, and it only did that recently. I won't go into details.

While the bass repeats itself all through the verses, it's still a great sound. And like usual, the bass usually repeats the same tune over in the verses of a song. It's normal. There's one bass melody for the verses and one for the chorus, plus maybe one more for the bridge or other part of the song that's added in after a chorus or elsewhere.

The chorus is also very nice particularly when you listen to - again - the piano. For me it makes me think of everyday life, normal days where people spend them working and doing errands and then coming home to their families in the afternoon. It's perfect for the lyrics of the chorus - it talks about everyday life while the man isn't anywhere to be seen or heard, and people wonder about it. The bass makes me think of myself, predictably. Particularly in how it ascends and descends.

The bridge between the second verse and the second chorus for me evokes a long hazy, hot summer day full of longing and forlornness. Relaxing in a lounge chair on the beach in a worried, unhappy state of missing someone.

The drums actually make me think of myself, to an extent. I just like the constant beat with the two snare hits snug in between them, makes me think of a want to stay adamant and on track. Not exactly my personality, but I like to think that if I were enforcing something I would stand by it and it would be silly to challenge me. Like to my son if I had one, or something like that. My own father is like that, and I can see myself being like that.

The ending is kind of one of those you-know-the-situation-is-really-bad kind of endings, with the sound of the music. After the chorus it goes into a sort of looping descending bass line/piano instrumental, with the sax sounding like it's predicting doom (just like everything else), to me anyway. Finally there's a loud bang, a clang, and the song is diminished to this distant tinny-sounding state which is basically the same instrumental replaying itself until it fades away.

Originally I thought it was a cool kind of creative way to end the song, and that suddenly you were hearing the band playing in the studio, but from the engineer's point of view and hearing, in the mixing room adjacent to the recording room.
Then it became obvious to me that the sound I was really hearing was that of a jail door being closed, the lock being put in place, and the song probably echoing from a radio down the hall of the prison block. Of course it was all a sound effect, but it was a good one.

One more thing I should mention that's on my mind about how I see things is the piano chords during the last bit of instrumental - I don't know, but it makes me think of older people brought up in the 40s and 50s, people who were brought up with stern parents and rules and grew up with dignity and privilege. People who these days are older and are the kind of people who'll tell their grandchildren that they grew up in a much different lifestyle than today with computers and the Internet and YouTube and Facebook, and that they take things for granted much more than they did yet they have so much more. People of wisdom.

Also makes me think that some of those people raced in Porches in their youths, in the old 356 Coupes.

Interesting, yeah? Man.

It's a good song.
Music: A-
Lyrics: B+

Justin C.

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