Wednesday, March 2, 2016

In Pieces

I've probably mentioned before that each decade has a musical sound to it, and when it comes to the 80s, New Wave, synthesizers, booming drum machine effects and keyboard/guitar power music really dominate. For us Canadians, in terms of latter, we had our pick with Platinum Blonde, Honeymoon Suite, Paul Janz, and others. In really getting into Canadian music, I've noticed that we seem to have our own versions of The Police (The Tenants), Elton John (Gowan), and all the metal/power ballad artists out there (I can't come up with big names at the moment - maybe Metallica?) Harlequin ('Thinking of You') kind of sounds like Guns and Roses. Payolas nearly sound like Madness ('I'm Sorry') but not quite, with ska and new wave both mixed in. It really helps that a few Canadian bands - like Payolas, The Tenants or Platinum Blonde - had English lead singers, really helping them sound like their British equivalents. Saga fills in the New Wave and power genres - heavy keyboards mixed with heavy guitar, heavily synthesized. Loverboy covers the rock genre.

I'm not a huge fan of the power ballad genre. Honeymoon Suite is okay - I like 'Wave Babies' somewhat, as well as 'All Along You Knew,' but their other notable songs (virtually all of them) are too love-focused to me. They all deal with the same subject matter (relationships) and have too much of the same sound. 'New Girl Now.' 'Burning in Love.' 'Feel it Again.' I don't like Platinum Blonde at all. I dislike the singer's voice and their sound is too heavy and hard-edged for my liking. Only 'Not in Love' is tolerable for me.

Despite all of that, there is one song that manages to break through to my tastes, largely thanks to its progression for its chorus. I recently discovered a Paul Janz song called 'I Go To Pieces' that's precisely in league with the rest - focused on love/relationships, and full of edgy power-driven sounds. It even goes as far as to include silly vocal and repetition effects that weren't unusual to hear back then. The ultra-low bass voice sound is probably a trademark of the decade for music, highlighted by the 80s fixture 'Oh Yeah.' The low voice actually meshes extremely well with the progression of the chorus in this song. Janz even looks like all of his contemporaries in that genre and style, complete with long, styled hair.

The lyrics teeter on being corny, over-used, and predictable ("if fire can turn to passion, me and you in the name of love," "when I feel your warm embrace," etc.) but I like that they actually focus on a different aspect of love: The knowledge that when you don't feel good about anything, or nothing is okay, when you've 'gone to pieces,' you have someone you can think about or turn to, someone whose very face or essence or person can make you smile despite anything. They just have to exist in your life to make you feel good again.

Most of the verses and instrumental style of the song sounds too produced and false (especially the keyboard sound) but the chorus works well. The lyrical melody is nice and the progression itself starts on the predictable route of 1-5-7, but the final note changes it altogether - it ends on a 2 instead at first, and when it goes around the second time, it deflects back to the fifth. I've worked out the song as being on C sharp minor, so it goes C sharp/A flat/B/E flat, then it repeats the first three but returns to finish on A flat after B. The low voice follows this progression exactly and sounds really nice when it returns to A flat. The bridge, which is just synthesizer, hand drums, and probably the corniest of the lyrics, follows this as well.

Because of its finely-produced style and arena sound, and its silliness, it's one in a multitude of similar-sounding 80s songs, but it redeems itself to me with its progression and its lyrical focus. Perhaps it may only end up as a song I like a lot for a short while before moving on, but either way, I'm happy to have discovered it. Prior to it the only song I'd heard by Janz was 'Every Little Tear' which is the same if not even more corny-sounding, and I don't like it at all. He currently lectures at King's College in London, so he's done well for himself I'm sure. Interestingly, his background is mostly gospel and religious music rather than hairspray metal or whatever it's called.

Song: B-
Lyrics: C+

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