Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Stand in the place that you live"

I've only heard this song three times over the past week, and I have to write about it.

By R.E.M., 'Stand' was one of their singles off their album Green in 1989. It was one of the bigger hits, peaking at #6 in the U.S., 48 in the U.K., and 16 in the C. (this country).

I first heard it earlier this week. I almost collapsed in laughter.
The reason for that was just the sound of the song, and what I'd thought I'd heard. When I heard the song, what I thought I'd heard was this: "I'm standing in the place where you live." My immediate idea was that the singer was stalking someone, and informing them by phone or cell phone that they're currently standing in their house.

All in a normal, sing-along, casual manner.

Of course, that wasn't what I'd heard. My laughter at the suggested sound and scenario was, alas, inappropriate.

Actually, the song is more about 'finding direction in one's life' (at least according to Wikipedia). The singer is addressing someone who is nonplussed and uninterested with going anywhere in life, prodding him to get some direction, stand in the place where they live, where they work, and think about direction ("Wonder why you haven't before").

Kind of reminds me of myself, because I don't know what I want to do. Only two words appear to me when I think of it: Documentaries and novels.

The music video is no less odd. It features everyday tasks in detail, as well as three or four people dancing ridiculously on a giant compass painted on the floor.

The music itself is upbeat and kind of bright. It makes me think it's always returning to the point or breaking something down into simpler terms for someone who can't figure something out.

It's kind of reminiscent of Supertramp's 'Dreamer' of 1974, another bright cheery song (bright due to the Wurlitzer keyboard and high-pitched voice, not a guitar) in which the singer is talking to someone he feels does nothing but dream along, never doing anything or feeling sad ("can you put your hands on your head, oh no!") but just thinking and dreaming. The singer points out there's not a lot he can do.

In essence, it's up to you to meet your goal or figure it out, "work it out someday" (Dreamer) and to use your head "which is there to move you along." (Stand). However, I tend to think that 'Stand' sounds just a little bit, to the untrained listener who has trouble finding the meaning in a song, like it's a training tune for toddlers on how to walk.
But I'm sure no one really thinks that. No one is that literal.

Music: B+
Lyrics: A-

By the way, as for myself, sure, I am a dreamer to an extent. But you know, I've getting there. I am just going very slowly. I handed out a few resumes today. It's the first step towards documentaries and novels - though I'd get further on the novel idea if my mother would finish proofreading my first draft of the one I've already written.
Yeah, yeah.

Justin C.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Go-Go Listening

It's ten after ten at night as I begin to write this. Actually, it was 10:10 when I was writing in the title above, but whatever. It's a time like this and what do I do?

Based on my current sense of feeling and emotion after listening to a particular song, and having bright ideas and thoughts and memories due to the stimulation brought on by that, and all that preamble, I click on 'New Post' and write in 'It's ten after ten...'

Now and then I'll write about different music that I like other than Madness, and what I mean is I write about different bands, not a song review that's not a Madness one. A good example is my prose on Supertramp.

This one is about the Go-Go's, which was an all-girl pop band in the early 1980s.

I don't think I could find many adolescent guys like me who would go for all-female groups from twenty-seven years ago. Even I at one point, when I was young, found it kind of funny when my friend's father enthusiastically listened to the Dixie Chicks. I don't think many guys my age would like to admit liking an all-girl band - unless you were talking about Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, or Madonna, and if that were the case, they would be going for what they're wearing this time on stage or in their music videos rather than the sound of their music or voices.

I have no problem talking about my interest in the Go-Go's, or Bananarama, if I were to talk about them as well. Musically, not visually.

The first time I ever heard of the band was one Saturday afternoon in 2005(?) when this interesting show called 'Bob TV' - a visual music video show counterpart to the radio station - was on. I was enthusiastically watching it to see any music videos or songs from the 80s that I might like, or, more importantly, if they would play any Madness material. After all, the radio station is focussed on playing the songs of the last two decades (not including the recently passed 2000s but the 1980s and 90s) and the show was just the same.

At one point, the music video for a song called 'Vacation' came on. It was a full cast of girls sitting around with luggage and playing instruments, then being towed all together on water skis by a speed boat. I remember thinking it looked kind of funny but also nice and cool. I didn't really take much note of who the band was, only passing on the name 'Go-Go's' and soon forgot about it. All I have is the memory of seeing that music video.

Either the same year I saw that music video, or a year later, I am not sure, I would see a shampoo commercial using a really fun song that began with a piano, then started a guitar riff and then the chorus. There was a bass solo, then the chorus again.
I was immediately taken with that, especially the bass solo. I had no idea who sung it or if it was even a real song or just a piece commissioned by the advertising agency, but I liked it. I would often watch out for it on TV and get excited when it came on, eager to hear the chorus and the bass solo. 
The commercial itself was even bright and sunny and kind of going on a good thing, even though it was just a Pantene Pro-V commercial - it featured two girls in summery dresses tending to themselves and looking at each other through mirrors while lazily preparing for something upstairs, and ending with both of them meeting a man at the front door, likely to go out with him.
Sound similar to something I wrote about last Thursday? 
I'd never think that I'd virtually be the guy at the front door (in my case it wasn't exactly a date, and it was a meetup elsewhere in a public place, not at a front door, but character-wise) and the girls I'd see would in a way resemble the ones in the commercial. My synesthetic idea of the bass being me heading somewhere to have fun with girls had nothing to do with the story in the commercial yet the commercial would eventually be the backdrop of similarity to what I would end up doing in reality with actual girls.

I would put the commercial here, but I have in fact already put it on this blog, in my post about recreating the bass line.

A few years after seeing the commercial, as I would explain it in the blog post linked above, I would decide to see if I could learn that wonderful bass line from memory, and I did. Then I tracked down the commercial, figured out that the song was called 'Head over Heels,' and then proceeded to watch the actual music video.

I was very quick to make the connection between that song and 'Vacation.' Following that I did some research (I looked them up on Wikipedia, if you can call that research) and connected the band to a few other obscure sounds I remember hearing before, like 'We got the Beat' or 'Our Lips are Sealed.' 

I think the band itself is quite fun and nice to listen to. I'd called the bass line in 'Head over Heels' as making me think of myself in a quirky mood, and their songs are quite exactly that, along with their videos. They also had quite a good graphic artist design their album covers. Their sound was just fun and out there.
I also find the guitarist, although from back then, in the music videos, kind of cute.

They'd began in California (oh, boy, an American band, not a British one!) in the late 1970s and eventually put together the main line-up, with Belinda Carlisle as lead vocals, Gina Schock (drums), Charlotte Caffey (piano, lead guitar), Kathy Valentine (bass, though she'd originally played guitar and had just started playing bass when she'd joined the group), and Jane Wiedlin (guitar, and the one I'd found cute). They supported Madness, a widely-known and popular British ska/pop band, on a tour throughout England and Los Angeles.*

They would spend the early 1980s producing albums like 'Beauty and the Beat,' 'Vacation' and 'Talk Show.' They'd have the most success in between 1981 and 1984, with the aforementioned singles 'We've got the Beat' and 'Our Lips are Sealed.' 'Head over Heels,' from their last big album, 'Talk Show,' also did extremely well, and it's probably the song that really sits well with me. Although I find 'Vacation' (the song) pretty good as well.

The thing with me, though, is the fact that other than Madness, and on a smaller level, Supertramp, I'm one of those people who have an eclectic taste for music - I like what I think is the best song from a band, but not the rest of their material. I love a tonne of songs that aren't by Madness, but of the bands that produce them, I only like their one song, sometimes two songs. I only like 'Rio,' 'The Reflex,' and 'Hungry like the Wolf' from Duran Duran, but that is it. I like 'At the Hundredth Meridian' by The Tragically Hip, but that is it. The best song in the world is, in my opinion, 'Another Day in Paradise' by Phil Collins, yet I rarely listen to any of his other songs at all due to lack of any real interest.

It goes the same with the Go-Go's - I like 'Head over Heels,' but that is it. Their other songs aren't bad at all, fun and quirky and nice and refreshing, but I never really listen to any of them due to lack of interest. I use 'fun' and 'quirky' and I mean it in a purely genuine manner - but I need to have interest, and I don't.

The bottom line is just what I wrote - 'fun' and 'quirky' and 'refreshing' - that's how I'd describe the Go-Go's. I like them. They're just plain cool.


*I use 'widely-known' and 'popular' because that would be appropriate usage here on this blog where they are mentioned countless times and which is ran by a devoted Madness fan, making them widely-known and popularized by such a fan. And they were and are widely-known and popular throughout Europe, Australia, and Japan.

Justin C.

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.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Morning

Yes, it's a Madness song, however I am not really doing a review on it since I am kind of slightly living the song itself, without the house party but the effects.

A little while ago, I was invited to this little gig in the market through that Facebook site. It's not usual for me to be invited like that, as I never had many friends and for people who knew me by sight and generally, for them to invite me to something they're doing is a very nice thing of them.

Finally being of age, but more importantly not having another family matter to attend to (like my two-week-long babysitting) I did manage to go.

By the way, it's probably a good thing I decided to write this today. The title fits and well, I'm a bit better.

The stage was quite diminutive, but all the bands had no trouble fitting on it. I couldn't believe any of the drummers - I'm one myself, but I never drum that kind of style or that fast. Being primarily a Madness drummer I don't usually flourish with fancy fills in my repertoire. When I came in a guy on keyboards calling himself 'Fillet Sterling' was playing, and he wasn't bad. I thanked Kevin, the man who invited me, for, well, inviting me. Another act called Audiocassette Tape then filled in.

Really, for me it was nice to see people I knew for once. Prior, I was spending the day on my father's street because they had a fair going on, and I was surrounded by people like my dad's neighbors. I knew them, yes, but not from high school. I saw one of them when he was planting his garden, and that's how I knew him. Boring.

No, it was all people who were strictly my age or a bit older. People I knew in grade 12 and who graduated with me. I recognized a girl I knew on the swim team two years ago

By the time the band we all had been waiting for - the one that had people we knew properly, with Kevin on keyboards - I'd respectively had one drink (my father's last words were 'buy yourself a beer') and I wanted to get one right as those guys were going on. I don't know. Just because there had to be sometime when I'd get one (everyone was carrying glasses or bottles) and because, well, those people were the hometeam, from my high school, and I wanted to support them and loosen up a bit.

Their first song really struck me as pretty good:

But what really hit me, right now, is what happened afterwards. I wandered into the back of the place, and out of nowhere a table of four invited me to pull up a seat. I didn't know any of them, but it was quite nice of them to invite me to sit with them. I have to think it was their good nature and not the alcohol. All of us engaged in a talk about things, and they were extremely impressed that I'd written a novel and did photography. Gee. When everything went crazy, it was after one of them who'd really been engaging me in conversation - I remember he was Gavin - ordered us all shots with pickles.
According to Matt, across from me, I was the only one who looked normal doing such a thing, whereas everyone else looked tearful and red. Maybe, like my paternal grandpa has been saying all along, I'm Campbell, and they can hold their liqor?

They also let me have the last full drink on the table because I was a writer. Boy. Then we left to walk around and try to get into other places (though that didn't perfectly pan out since Gavin disappeared). It climaxed on the Piece Memorial where we met so Matt could get his car (I guess he was the driver).

Throughout the entire time, I walked around with a dizziness and a giddiness in the fact I was walking with a person or people who had befriended me themselves, and without effort.

Elliot, another guy, told me at one point that happiness and dizziness are exact symptoms of drunkenness. It was a first for me. Originally I was having one drink, supporting the band, and leaving by midnight. No, I met several people from Osgoode and ended up more inebriated.

I kind of feel like a dufus right now. I'm not that kind of person. I guess doing stuff like that really bring out one's nutty side. What I'm really hopeful for, though, is that none of the stuff I did last night with any of those people was superficial and simply the result of intoxication. Not the stumbling I mean - the fact that they befriended me and took me with them. Genuinely enjoyed my company. They said it was genuine, but that could just be the alcohol speaking. I don't know. It was extremely decent and nice for Matt to drive me home (my bike is still outside the darn bar).

All I can hope for is that they keep in touch. They were really nice people. And the show was pretty great. A lot of people remarked they were glad I 'could make it.' Yeah. The last few times I was invited I wasn't 19 yet.
Anyway. I've got to get "tea and toast for breakfast, clear away the plates, wash up, prepare for walking...Sunday lunch awaits."
-'Sunday Morning.'

Justin C.