Thursday, March 10, 2016

On Mars

This recently captured my interest:

At first I didn't take too much from it, but the second verse got me hooked. It's another 80s Canadian song, from a band called 'Pukka Orchestra.' There are many bands with the word orchestra in their names. This is the Canadian version, with the first word being Hindu, meaning 'genuine.'

I gave their debut album (self-titled) a listen the other night. They appear to have existed for only a moment in their time, as they don't seem like anything anyone's ever heard of unless they lived in Toronto at that time and were knowledgeable on local or national music. Like several other Canadian acts of note, their lead singer is from the U.K. (Scotland to be precise) and they didn't really go any further than this first album of note because singer Graeme Williamson fell sick with serious kidney problems that curtailed the band's momentum.

It also never really helped that they were a trio requiring a multitude of session musicians live and in studio.

The second verse, beginning with the line 'we lead such a sweet existence' really sounds good. I haven't tried to lay it out, but I'll be surprised if it isn't a 1-5 progression starting in E minor. E-B, over and over.

The lyrics sound simple but also well-written (probably the best mixture) and appear to be about one's knowledge that their relationship is getting ever more distant, so much so that they might as well be on Mars. This observation is surrounded by words of decadence - "sun is shining in my penthouse suite" - and words of emotional metaphor: "You watch your star flash into the sky, fall to earth again on easy street." Williamson's voice reminds me of A Flock of Seagulls' Mike Score, and it sounds both defeated, disinterested and slightly forlorn. "Monday night, another day goes by/your voice is telling me life is sweet." He sounds like he's blandly going through the motions in describing it because he knows that that's become routine and superficial. He does a great job.

I definitely need to touch upon the music video. I won't go into detail over the introduction, which looks more or less like a commercial - it echoes the vocal introductions laid out in their album - but the rest of the video looks virtually brilliant to me. It's the most inexpensive-looking thing I've ever seen, the most simple, and the most inventive. In summary, all three sit there and either look on or mime guitar movements, or sing. A boombox sits up close, obviously playing the song for them to mime to. Movers do random things in the background. It looks very much like the three are roommates, they're being evicted, and their furniture is being repossessed, so they make the best of the situation by singing along to a boombox. At the end, the music fades away faster than the boombox, so you're left listening to them actually singing to the speakers until they break down laughing.

If I had a little band and had license to do a music video, I'd do exactly the same thing, except I'd take it a step further and have something to eat while the singer did all the work. Instead of a boombox I would have a cover band playing the song in the background while the singer mimed his lyrics and I ate lunch. It would look pointless and silly and extremely cost-effective.

Song: A-
Lyrics: A
Music video: B+

Red Cloud

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