Like Knots On A Rope

In the summer of 2007 I went to Greece, and just before I got in the car, I ran upstairs, found all of my dad’s CDs, and picked one for the journey to the airport. That CD was Kid A, and it was the first time I had properly listened to Radiohead. The initial descending keyboard riff came in, that soft kick drum beating beneath the pulsing chords, Everything In Its Right Place driving ominously onwards, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I hated the rest of the album, but when my dad stopped the car, I told him I needed to take the CD with me to show my friend that first track.

Several hours later, I was in his apartment, shrugging off his attempt to give me a tour of the place, and putting the CD on. His reaction was the same. Over the course of that week, I stopped hating the rest of the album. I started liking it. One month later, I was still listening to it everyday. My friend, meanwhile, had discovered OK Computer and told me to try that one. I dismissed it in that way you do when someone shows you something you wanted to discover yourself. But I did secretly listen to it on my own, judging it to be inferior initially, then slowly absorbing all of it – taking in its tone first, and then the resigned passion of its lyrics.

In a matter of weeks, Radiohead were my favourite band. I went through every album, always disappointed at first that each one didn’t replicate the sound of the one I had listened to previously, then growing to love them all.

Eventually, I wrote this song. My first Radiohead impression. I remember sitting at my window, looking out at a view blank enough to stimulate any kind of thought process, and attempting to channel the mood of Radiohead. It was my first song written as lyrics before the chords existed, chords which were half improvised a few days later on an out of tune guitar, thereby essentially ruining the song.

The lyrics and accompanying melody do quite well at capturing the mood of Radiohead actually, if not the meaning:

“Today I’ll try and reach it,
Quick wash it away,
I’ll try and make it.

From a friend, like knots on a rope
Fix the problem

I can’t want the picture,
The side of views.

Today I’ll try and reach it,
Quick wash it away,
I’ll try and make it.

From a friend, like knots on a rope
Fix the problem.”

An analysis of those words would just as likely suggest masturbation as a theme than anything else. But they seem to carry a bit of gravity in the song, which is more than I can say about almost any other lyrics I wrote in the year surrounding Like Knots On A Rope.

In 2007 I was so, so far from being able to emulate Radiohead in any way. But as the years have passed I would have to name them as my foremost influence, in the way their worldview is reflected in music, and especially in their transition to electronic music.

This will in no way be reflected by any other song on The Trying Artist for a long time. Goodbye Radiohead pastiches! Hello again badly executed bland indie rock/pop!

 

 

Never Leave

I’ve attached a picture of a beautiful sunset so you’ll have something to distract you from this song. The only way Never Leave could be more boring is if it simply started over when it got to the end and played through once more. Rewind back to the beginning to see what I mean.

The picture, though! Gosh it’s beautiful. The way the golden-hour sunbeams wriggle out from behind the surprisingly dense, dark clouds, thereby transforming them, removing any sense of foreboding they might otherwise evoke, and imbuing them instead with the lazy contentment of a late-summer’s evening, all silver linings and open blues. Beneath, you might imagine the sea teeming with hidden life, a world of plenty, all things in their right place, chaotically vivacious but perfectly formed. Or maybe not, maybe for you it is an infinitely deep blank space, the sort of space we hope to find inside our minds when too many things are pressing into our consciousness. I guess for me it’s both, a blank slate which promises endless potential, a site of calm positivity.

To be frank, this stock ‘beautiful sunset’ image brings more romance to Never Leave than anything in the recording, but it is also completely in keeping with the disgustingly bland brand of romance that the song promotes, and which should never be accompanied by anything except a melody so undeniable that we forgive (or forget) the lyrics (video at bottom).

Never Leave was a band song, which is why the bass playing is quite good, and why we get a little burst of backing harmonies during the trudging reprise of ‘what you make me feel’ towards the end.

I believe this song was promoted only in a very limited way at the time. We certainly never played it live at any gigs, thank god.

All in all, a song that makes you wish the sun would just bloody set already.

 

 

 

 

When The Music Plays Too Loud

Trying desperately to think of interesting things to say about this song, I grasped at the idea that it might have the longest song title I’d written. A few seconds later I realised it doesn’t even have the longest song title so far on the Trying Artist blog (Pain Keeps The Pleasure Fresh just pips it with 25 characters to 24, and don’t even get me started on THE SONG THAT CHANGED THE WORLD). Right now I’m working on a song titled All Me And Everyone Else One Line Forever, for god’s sake.

Still, there’s always the tactic of talking about not talking about anything…

 

Don’t be fooled by the image or the name, this song is far more likely to send you to sleep than cause damage to your ears. And not just because it’s dreary, although of course that is a factor. It’s just a mellow song, one of the first sung by what I might call my Drifter persona- someone who, at the climactic moment of the song in the second chorus, sings the vague, non-assertive assertion: ‘I’ll be somewhere tonight, ahhh’. The vocals are mixed so far back it almost feels like an instrumental track. It seems to lurch from bar to bar like a drunk – ‘And I’m faaallling’ being perhaps more literal than it might normally be. In fact, I’m tempted to believe that the song was conceived as a ‘drunk song’ right from the start, although my dating would put its composition maybe between the 3rd and 4th time I ever tried alcohol.

The combined effect of these characteristics is that it’s quite hard to concentrate when listening to it, your attention drifts to more interesting things – the colour of the wallpaper in front of you, the thing you forgot to buy at the supermarket, are lower clouds actually moving faster than higher clouds or is it just a perspective thing? – before being wrenched back to the music whenever one of the quite irritating rhythmic mistakes happens.

When The Music Plays Too Loud definitely has a ‘feel’ to it though, in production terms. Recording my drum kit with only one mic meant that the quality/tone of the sound depended hugely on where I put the mic in the room. And not ever, in the 7 or so years it took me to stop recording my drum kit in this way, did I decide to properly work out where it sounded best. I’d do a bit of half-hearted shifting about, sure, but mainly I just wanted to get the song done. So, you’ll find across all of my early music, the drums are a lottery. Here though, they kind of work. There’s a dusty vintage sound to them, the kick drum cuts through quite well, there’s a good mix between the different drums and cymbals. I also like the way the kick drum and bass guitar play on the same beats through most of the song (when they’re not out of time.) And the chord sequence is interesting. If you wrote it down it would have numbers after the letters! In fact I just picked up my guitar and found that I can still play the whole thing, which means I must have liked it for a long time.

Ultimately, a song that is let down by the vocals (how many times will I have to write that), and, if we’re nitpicking, by my complete lack of professionalism. Will the next song also start and end with random noises? Find out later!