Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Like The Whole World's Out of Sync

Tonight, out of nowhere, I decided to listen to 'Head over Heels' by The Go-Go's after many months of having not listened to it, perhaps even a year. Then, after some nice nostalgic blasts of old synesthetic imagery coming up from the depths of my mind and catalyzed by the song, I looked on here thinking I'd written a review on it - but found I actually hadn't, other than on the band itself.

So, three years after I started mentioning it around here, I'm going to do that just now.

The song was one of their later, or perhaps final, bigger hits from their heyday in the early 80s (my knowledge and past research in memory has rusted over with uncertainty and misplaced directness in all this time). I think it was written partly by Kathy Valentine, the bassist, which would make sense considering the obvious bass solo that mostly drew me into the song in the first place.

As the story goes, I heard it in a shampoo commercial for Pantene Pro-V. It is probably the only commercial I looked forward to watching thanks to the bass, guitar, and attractive backing vocals. I didn't look up the song back then because of my unawareness of many things (from YouTube to whether or not it was an actual song by an artist and not something created by Pro-V's marketing department).

Visual images affect how I see things synesthetically, and the commercial itself was no different. It featured two young women lounging about with nothing to do, then using the shampoo on their hair before some guy friend shows up to take them out. To maybe lunch or the park, not to assassinate them. Sorry, I'm describing a shampoo commercial from 2006 and I feel I should make it interesting somehow. I have a feeling blood ruining their Pro-V-perfect hair would sell less bottles. Anyway, it's two women wearing summer dresses, and while the entire thing plays out, an edited version of the song plays, focusing on the piano introduction, then the chorus, the bass solo, and then the final choruses. I'm guessing they put the song's bass solo in the central body of the commercial so the commentator had less distracting noise in the background with her voice. A quieter venue of song in which to talk.

I'm detailing the commercial from the song to the dresses the girls wore due to how it directly affected what I saw when I heard it subsequently. The song itself is already pretty feminine - particularly from the female backing vocals during the chorus - and the women in the commercial help accentuate it. The bass solo really caught me because it was fun and bouncy and gave me and image of me being the same way, but around other girls, as if I'm popular with them, and therefore they see me in a positive light. Do they, really? I doubt there's any light for them to see me in to begin with considering I know almost none, haha.

Years later, the bass line came to mind, and I tried figuring it out on my own directly from memory before looking up the commercial, and then looking up the song itself. Talking about it, it's a rock song I'd say, but pop-oriented. There's a bright, excitable piano in it and it's a simple, basic musical arrangement. To play the song on bass, you merely stay on one fret - the note of D - and then change strings from A to D next to it, on the same fret, playing a high G (which Valentine does during the bridge - otherwise she moves to a low G in the verses, which is two frets down and on the E string). There's one little bit where you do a C and a B, then G - but otherwise the verses are simple and made up of five notes - D, G, C, B, and A. The choruses are more difficult in terms of the extra notes arranged around the structure - but the structure itself is very common and used everywhere: D, A, E, B. Playing just those notes in order is like drawing an N on the frets but starting at the end, at the upper right, not the lower left. Valentine does exactly that at the very end of the song. Heck, the first three notes in the chorus essentially spell out D major note by note.

I'm not putting the style or simplicity of it down; most of the best songs are basic or simple or easy, and The Go-Go's achieved this in 'Head over Heels.' While the bass follows that structure, the guitar compliments it with chords of those exact notes - D, A, E, and B, and only once each time, no sustain to them, all staccato (which I like). All in the chorus.

Generally, the song is pink and bright yellow to me. Morning colours. That's natural to me for a song that starts on D major. The chord or note has always been pink and 'morning' to me (the way the colour is lit up is like the sun is shining on it from where it is in the morning sky, which is achieved visually through the direction I perceive the colour in). The yellow is generated by the guitar. For a time, I'd slow the chorus down to hear every synesthetic colour and image and texture come at me easily and more obviously, with time to hear everything at an easy, sharper, obvious pace. You wouldn't normally hear how tentative or shy (at least to me) Belinda sounds as she sings the word 'head' in the very first chorus, for the first time.

When I first heard it (so the chorus, really) I saw a pink wall and blue sky, and a girl I used to see on the bus home from school strutting across the sidewalk in front of the wall. This was all through the backing vocals, during the time the commercial was aired. Then in 2010, after really getting into the song, I got more involved with two girl friends, one of who pitched the idea of spending an afternoon together as friends, and throughout that time, I'd started assigning both of their personalities (or the way I saw them) as aspects of the song; I've said all of this on here before. The day I hung out with them, they coincidentally wore dresses of the same colour as the women in that original commercial with the song, so the commercial, the synesthetic meshing, and the circumstances envisioned by me in the song (all that positive, bouncy light) all came together in a rare state of perfect matching and connection. I laughed pretty hard at that realization back then. I was like the guy at the end of the commercial (without a gun), and I was maybe even seen in a bouncy, positive light like the bass.

Listening to it again tonight brought back some of those synesthetic images. The guitar - the yellow, grittier-textured abstract - translated into a feisty, happy personality that was strong-minded; the backing vocals were pretty and feminine and attractive. Those old, one-time friends applied to those each pretty well, but that's unfortunately so 2010. But it's nostalgic that way.

I'm not sure what the lyrics are about other than trying to keep yourself together in a crazy world, or something along those lines. "Just like the whole world's out of sync."

The highlights of the song are its chorus, bass solo (I don't see myself as much as I used to but I do see one of those old girl friends when it plays out D major note-by-note when it starts its solo) and the backing vocals. I don't really know what to say negatively other than it ends almost kind of abruptly and sometimes Carlisle's vocals sound a bit weird in places.

As for the music video, it's a simple performance piece that is all right but sometimes makes me think they're sometimes acting like silly little girls (the way Charlotte grins ridiculously while playing the piano, the colour-smiling headshot-colour intro, the silly scenes of each of them reacting to diamonds and spiders in the bridge, etc.) The slow-motion scene of Valentine playing bass during her solo with an aircraft passing by behind looks kind of corny or overplayed as well, especially with Gina Schock leaning in from the edge to grin while playing drums. I do like the strips of each of them singing near the end, though, which looks iconic, and the studio lighting. The sudden bit of Jane Wiedlin strumming her guitar immediately after the bass solo, though, and her expression and movement, is quite attractive. Especially when she's sounding an instrument with punch that makes me think of the personality and image of someone who definitely is.

After this extremely long-winded, over-worded review/nostalgic reminiscing, here are my marks:

Music: B+
Lyric: B-
Video: C+

It's great nostalgia after listening to it again. Even though unlike music I re-discover from the 90s, this is something I've only heard from the past seven years (starting from the commercial).

Justin C.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Too Late for Goodbyes

I found this recently. It's an interesting break-up song by the son of Beatles guitarist and songwriter John Lennon (the guy looks and slightly sounds like him too).

You wouldn't guess how I came upon it. I was watching a MuchMusic thing I found on YouTube of Kim Mitchell playing 'Go For a Soda' live in 1992. In the second verse, he said, "now let's do the Julian Lennon version." Immediately, he changed his guitar-playing to staccato. And right away, I wanted to hear the actual song.

The lyrics and the title make me think of two separate but similar things. The lyrics make me think about how I felt after that long-distance relationship I had started for the first time in October 2010 suddenly stopped and I'd written very angry things both in e-mail and on here. Very awfully. It was similar again in January 2011 when she said I had to move on (for the first time). Ironically, I'm writing this here today, on her twentieth birthday. But the title and main chorus make me think of something different altogether, and it's of my finishing this past semester.

I went through a groundbreaking thing during that time, wherein I was almost always hanging out with a friend who was actually female. That ended after some mistakes on my part and the other party interpreting every subsequent move or action I made personally. You can't go through life believing your point of view is all that matters and is the only one that's right, regardless of how independent or successful you are or have made for yourself, regardless of your past, or how good or bad it is. No one is infallible. Otherwise everyone will let you down - unless they are slaves to ensuring they agree with you. I stood up in front of the classroom before I left after finishing the test - the last class of the semester - and said a line from that Simple Minds song that's always made me smile: "I'll be alone, dancing, you know it baby." Several people grinned at me, understanding the reference and knowing I wasn't going to be around in the future. She, on the other hand, glared at her screen, looking almost determinedly resentful. Because she sat there, I moved to the other side of the room.

No, my keyboard wasn't working properly and to get into the test online, I need to type a password to make the wireless Internet work on my computer. A classmate on the other side of the room offered a jack and a spare cable. Nothing to do with your presence.

As I walked away down the hall afterwards, I put my fist into the air like Bender does at the end of The Breakfast Club. Then I buckled in laughter. I was generally happy. But the title does work - it's much too late for goodbyes. I'm not interested anymore, not for the personalities I've been given or the emotional drama, and not for those who think they are above others or better than people when in fact they are hypocritical and self-absorbed. Attack me all you want, if you're reading this. I won't respond. I don't care. I'm too busy listening to Julian Lennon and admitting my mistakes and working to improve.

You can't force anyone to do anything in this world, whether it's have a mindset or physically do something. As soon as people realize that, the world will be a better place.

By the way, the song is a synesthetic grey to me generally, and makes me think of those who are kind of bland and have no problem with that.

Happy Holidays.

Justin C.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tonight It's Magic

After that review of The Cars' song 'You Are The Girl,' I thought I'd do a sort-of double review on two other songs of theirs, 'Magic,' and 'Tonight She Comes.'

I've heard a few of their other songs ('You Might Think,' 'Let The Good Times Roll,' 'Drive,' 'Just What I Needed,' etc.) but other than 'Drive,' these two appeal to me the most.

Although I've probably heard many Cars songs prior to realizing I'd heard them, 'Magic' was the first one I took real interest in, looked up, and found out the band performed it. I basically liked the voices in the chorus and the general, positive sound to it. It uses a bright-sounding keyboard as a sort of lead. The musical structure is actually very simple - A-D-E - and the voices are positive and bright like the keyboard, at least in the chorus. The drums are - bright. I guess everything but the bass in the song is 'bright-sounding' to me - the bass, being a low-sounding instrument, is just as it sounds. Sounds like Benjamin Orr used a pick on it, as it's got a hard edge to it. Perhaps it's an effort to ensure the song sounds like hard-rock.

The lyrics seem like they go back and forth contradictorily to me - "I've got a hold on you, why don't you let me go, etc.", then "Wha-oh, it's magic when I'm with you." I'm not sure where Ric's lyrics are going. Perhaps there's something in between the lines I'm not grasping, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was.

Unlike the 'You Are The Girl' music video, the one they made for this song is pretty nice. What I tend to do when I watch it is imagine it's my birthday and I'm Ocasek's character. The setting is a huge backyard, with a pool and house (with veranda) overlooking it. When morning comes, dozens of people show up to marvel at and admire Ric Ocasek as he walks across the pool's surface, like it's magic. At the end, some of them jump in, but only end up thrashing about in the water as Ocasek stands over them. It's sunny and bright, and the guests vary almost ridiculously - there's a mime on the diving board, a tall circus character with top hat and white face paint, a couple dressed like they're from ancient Greece, a cowboy, a pilot with a trumpet and trombone, a pirate, a clean-cut blonde guy with a drink who looks like one of the Hardy Boys, an over-excited wrestler, two identically-dressed women who stoically move in time together, etc. etc....

I like to imagine it as my birthday largely because of the large crowd of people there - like they're friends and family of mine - and because some of them do look similar to people I know, or I can relate them to people in my life. While I don't enjoy the scenes of the guests' faces leering at the camera or the way they're surrounding Ocasek like he's a celebrity they have to get near, touch, speak to, I can easily see my friend Brent in the short character with the hat first seen lying by the side of the pool, or those two girls I've always looked to as the two rhythmic stoic ladies in purple. Basically I imagine everyone as people I know come to be happy around me. I know this all sounds very egocentric and perhaps even sad, but it's a nice thought.
The rest of the band don't appear until the song's bridge, on either side of the house's veranda, though you can see them over the crowd just before. It was apparently shot at a property owned by the Hilton family. Essentially, the band ran around on top of the same pool Paris Hilton probably swam in as a child. A couple of times, according to Wikipedia, the plexiglass surface Ocasek walked on collapsed under his weight during the filming. It's not always so magical I guess...

Unlike 'Magic,' 'Tonight She Comes' was something I heard and liked after simply seeing the thumbnail for the music video on YouTube in the related videos. I hadn't heard it before - not in Wal-Mart or otherwise - it was completely visual stimuli. The thumbnail was of a red-headed girl in side-profile grinning almost mischievously at the camera. That was alluring enough to me to want to look at it properly, so there you go. I was drawn in by a girl in the music video.

Like 'You Are the Girl,' the song is a mixture of hard guitar and keyboard. I find the keyboard at the beginning - the one that's rhythmic, not sustained - obviously feminine, which gives it more appeal to me. I guess I like keyboards that sound intensely feminine to me synesthetically, probably because it plays to the whole dynamic I've long since constructed of femininity in organs and keyboards verses masculinity in guitars and bass. Ironically, the sustained, leading keyboard over the same beginning of the song sounds masculine to me. The song has a nice melody and sound to it, although the very bright, soft keyboard parts probably overdo it just a little for me. Also, there are certain guitar parts or riffs that quite literally sound exactly like a tired, whiny boy. A perfect example is the 'why does she keep me hanging on the line' verse, in which it sounds (appropriately) impatient, but in a whiny little-kid sort of way. The instrument is also overly accentuated in key moments of some verses, like it has to be affirmed or positive or something. I have no complaints about the guitar's actual solo, and Elliot Easton did a great job on it.

The music video is a good visual aide to the song, and the tone of some of the instruments (particularly the keyboards) do make me think of a redhead, though that's probably because I saw the video of the song instead of hearing it first, and the redheaded girl dominating it influenced my synesthetic point of view (visual images do have an influence, not just sound). It's a simply performance thing mixed with attractive scenes and images of this redhead moving about in a patterned dress. There's a few good shots of her - the one that makes me almost laugh is where she's looking annoyed and has a ridiculous hairstyle. In the video's conclusion she takes off on a rocket.

I have one more thing to mention about the song, and it's its introduction - it seemingly starts with a string section of sorts. I get this unusual image of myself as a young child, innocent and unaware, just young and curious. I kind of like it. It's like a reference to better times, freedom and ignorance of what life gives you later.

Music: A-
Lyrics: B-

Tonight She Comes:
Music: B+
Lyrics: B
Additional marks for the video for actually drawing me to the song despite not having even heard it before. Or the girl in the video, whichever.

I'll finish by saying that I think both songs are a minor mark of the general 80s sound - keyboard synths and guitars - as well as one of The Cars' main musical directions. In contrast, 'Just What I Needed' and 'Let the Good Times Roll' are both are more rock-oriented and 'Drive' is a slow, synthy ballad. They had a diverse range.
The video for 'You Might Think' is ridiculous and kind of funny; Phil Collins spoofed it in his video for 'Don't Lose my Number.' Tonight, though, it's just Magic.

Justin C.

Monday, December 9, 2013

'You Are The Girl' - Door to Door, 1987

The Cars were a band that produced hits that had a nice mixture of easy guitar and keyboard. I first heard their song 'Magic' from 1984 (the year it came out) and was hooked in by the nice keyboard in it.

'You Are the Girl' was a later song that I would eventually hear in Wal-Mart. I've been in a sort of pattern here over the past couple of years thanks to Wal-Mart - from working there I've heard this, 'Reelin' in the Years' by Steely Dan, 'Hold me Now' by Thompson Twins, and a couple of others. This was back in the summer that I heard this. Since then, they've turned off the music for some reason.

It was one of those songs you hear parts of and like but don't know what it is yet first. One afternoon, I was on my break and was sitting in the Mcdonalds (like usual, really) and my co-worker Brian walked in. Seeing me, he grinned - but did not turn his head towards me. Rather, he kept it straight ahead but looked at me and grinned. It made me laugh out loud because I noticed him while he was in the middle of doing this, so from my perspective I'm looking up and seeing someone grinning at me out of the corner of his eye like I'm a girl he has a crush on.

Some time later, I'd be in the back room working and I'd hear this bit of song - just a sort of instrumental cue as the vocalist sang a lyric, back then I didn't know - and I'd immediately like it. Attaching an instrumental intro onto the beginning of it in a certain way in my mind, I saw Brian giving me that funny grin, and that would give it some humour.

I would decide thanks to the green texture that the keyboard bit was simply a sustained A note, lower on a keyboard (A has always been green), and later confirm this. I liked it. I wouldn't be aware of the song until I heard that note, and then realize it was playing in the store. Unfortunately, working in the back means it's very hard to hear the music often.

It wasn't until mid-July this summer that I heard it, a Sunday night. Funny timing considering the title and the chorus and meaning of the song and the time I finally heard it. It was the end of the shift, end of the night. I was on my way out after getting my stuff, walking through crafts, when I heard the note. Finally, I heard the lyric "Why don't you stay for awhile?" I stood there and listened hard. The chorus started. "You are the girl...that keeps me up at night." I virtually shook my head at the lyric and my circumstances at the time.

I went home. I searched it. I couldn't find anything at first because I phrased it as 'you're the girl.' Eventually I found it - by The Cars. Late 1980s. Made perfect sense.

It was their last hit from their last album, Door to Door. That keyboard intro thing I mentioned earlier does happen in the song, near the beginning. A, GA, B...A. It's the added B that adds to the grinning positivity context and makes me see Brian grinning ridiculously. Though I see less of him than I do of the hopeful positivity it gives me. Heard after 16 seconds in, during the song's intro.

It's a nice song that's evidently about relationship turbulence and reassurance. "Why don't you dream anymore? What's in the way?" "You are the girl that keeps me up all night/makes me feel all right..." I like that. The line "Why don't you talk anymore? What did I say?" really speaks to me. "What is it what I came for is floating away?"

As for the music, there's several high points for me. The sustained A note bit is one of them - especially when all the backing voices (not lead singer Ric Ocasek) sing that 'why don't you stay for awhile' lyric. Their vocal inflection and melody of 'stay' and 'awhile' is brilliantly done. The A note gives me an image of my own face - as if like Brian seemed to be, I'm looking at someone I like or have a crush on, but unlike Brian, instead of goofy grinning, I'm giving an expression of sincerity and depth. Like I just asked, "you want to do this?" like an adventure, in a meaningful way, and I have no mask on. I'm flat-out visible, I mean it. I look serious but in a good way. Just asked a deep question or something.

There's also the G-C back and forth bit right before that part that makes me think of two people looking at each other in understanding and interest, new feelings, etc. The bass is complimented and augmented with the keyboard on that part to give it more meaning or sensitivity. During the chorus, the structure goes C-D-G-D...when it goes back down to G, a deeper note, I imagine someone waiting for something to happen or someone to come or notice them, and then they get discouraged (G) but then go right back and look again hopefully (back up to D). Memories of my doing that over the years in situations come up. Because the A repeats a few times during the chorus, though, the context is seen differently and I get a face that's dumbfounded and back to square one. Very different from the lead-in part I just took apart earlier.

Altogether it's a typical Cars song that sounds good, with its mixture of keyboards and guitars. It's upbeat and the lyrics are nice. It can apply to me in certain ways, though I'm sure it can apply to everyone. I won't go too much into the music video particularly as I saw it once and didn't like it. It's creative but kind of alien to me, and I mean this both figuratively and literally - I don't see how it relates to the song very well, and it literally takes place on a spaceship, and ends with the band getting together with alien females. Their faces are unusual and almost completely unappealing to me in any way (one has three mouths). The image of their spaceship docking with the female one (their vessel-shaped one inserts into a crack-like door in the female one) gave me an image in bad taste.

Music: B
Lyrics: B

It's nice. I'm glad I found it. I have it on a CD I listen to in the car now and then. It's got nice lyrics.

"You are the girl in my dreams..."

Justin C.