Saturday, August 14, 2010

Long Day at the Office

Whenever I write titles like this it's obviously not about something particularly real or substantial. Nah, I'm writing a song review.


It's funny that you could put such a mundane song on the back of a real hit. This song would be the B-side of a song that, when first heard by me, would blow my ears off and set my mind on bright fire.


It would be an instrumental titled 'Walking with Mr. Wheeze,' and the A-side would be 'Our House.'


It's a very mundane-sounding song that really has an atmosphere to it. I can't think that such a song would go with such a huge mind-blower like 'Our House,' but it does. I only heard it for the first time a few years ago, several years after I'd heard its A-side.


It opens with a simple saxophone riff. It sounds like a tenor sax, but there's a higher-pitched bit right afterwards that could be attributed to an alto sax. Then it starts with a tone that could be considered kind of normal and mundane. Deep drums are hit, like any of the toms, likely the floor tom. There's a lower-sounding guitar and a boring piano that's also simple.


The song as a whole makes me think exactly of this: A workplace setting, with florescent lights glaring down upon cubicles, and people in collared white work shirts and black ties are dealing with computers and phones and writing. It's basically an open-concept office, an office with a very boring or mundane focus. Like they sell something mundane or deal with a very boring matter. There are daily meetings that are either lively or tedious and boring, mostly the latter, and the days are usually long.


More specifically, when I listen to it, I think of a particular kind of person who features in this setting. Not a real person - someone I made up. Someone who is portly, bored, alone, and isolated, with no ambition or interest in life. As the song starts he gets up early in the morning, has a morning tea and toast as the sun comes up, then departs for the bus to commute to work. He has to transfer at least once at a station with many other commuters, and eventually arrives at work. There, he works by himself in a cubicle, dealing with people on the phone and writing notes down, using the computer. He doesn't often talk with his colleagues or neighbors in other cubicles. At one point he has a break in an outdoor plaza.
Before lunch he has a meeting he hates having because it is so tedious and pointless, in his opinion. He doesn't like his boss or how he handles things and often comes up against him. After that he goes down to the shopping concourse at the bottom of his building and has lunch there. Something normal he'd eat everyday. People pass all around fleetingly.
The conclusion of this brings him to the afternoon remainder of office work, during which he does the same tasks mentioned above. There's one more afternoon break, which occurs around the same time the sun is setting. It's a short, cold winter day. There's one last hour and a half of work afterwards, during which he thinks about when to leave and getting home and just being away from there.
Finally he packs up and leaves just as the florescent lights on the floor are automatically turning off for the night. Barely anyone else is there, but if there were, it wouldn't matter because he doesn't take any interest in them. He is one of the last few people out of the building.
On the way home, he stops at a diner. It is quite dark and empty outside. Not many other people are in the diner, maybe two or three. The song ends just as he sits in self-reflection and drinks his evening coffee as the isolation fills him.


That last bit also makes me think that the diner is the exact same one, physically and with the exact same atmosphere, as the one in the Edward Hopper painting 'Nighthawks.'


This is all aroused from the general sound of the music, and each setting and time of day is distinguished by its particular part of song. The song itself has different parts and sections, one that sounds very dark and unwilling (the part illustrating the tedious meeting). The 'Nighthawks' scene with the diner occurs to me at the very end of the song, which is the same as the beginning - the same sax riffs, but a fading that really helps it on.


I once used it for a video I did in my communications class one year. When I was in grade 11, the class had a unit on video, and I chose to make a music video based on the song.
I'd called it 'A Mundane Day at Merivale H.S.,' and I would put it here, however I cannot for the life of me find the DVD. It did the same thing as I described above, except that it illustrated a student's day of high school. Because I'm a loner myself and most days were quite mundane, it was perfect. And I used a few time-lapsed effects (I time-lapsed a grade ten auto class, the Merivale/Viewmount intersection, and an English class). It was even filmed in winter. By the way, the dark and forbidding and unwilling bit of song was visually on my video me struggling through math class. Naturally.


All in all, the song really illustrates something and has an atmosphere. It was written by Lee Thompson and contained warp-like effects, not a usual thing for Madness to use in their songs (oh right, it was recorded by Madness). Apparently the title is a play on the song 'Groovin' with Mr. Bloe' by the 1970 session group Mr. Bloe.


Song: B


I wouldn't be surprised if you've heard the song before. If you were at the Merivale Art Show in May 2008, and you were on the computers in the media section, you could have seen my video. The videos produced by my class and a few others were put in the showcase. Because I used it, an unusual amount of modern, present-day teenagers in a normal, Canadian secondary school in Ottawa heard the obscure B-side produced by a band that recorded it before they were born, into a country and continent that basically blindsided and took no liking to their music at all in the first place (except, ironically, that same B-side's A-side - 'Our House').


Justin C.

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