Poder Nadar Es Bueno En Este Empleo

‘To Be Able To Swim Is Good In This Job’ is a translation of what I wanted the Spanish to say. To this day I have never actually checked whether this is right. I was relying on my GCSE Spanish then, and nothing I learned from then until now has told me otherwise. Let’s keep it casual, shall we?

Poder Nadar Blah Blah is an organic (read: unplanned) instrumental, one of many many songs I wrote over the years by playing an open E major chord on the guitar and sliding up and down the guitar neck to make blue-ish sounds. It starts relatively well, gets a bit boring, and then peters out towards the end. A progression many of us will come to know very well, I imagine.

I used to listen to it a lot while walking or on the bus, probably for two reasons:

1 – it’s boring enough to work well as background music. Nothing to really concentrate on – just soft, glossy sounds, thick textures, and a level of emotion that can be accurately depicted with the use of a hyphen:         –

2 – the fact that I don’t sing lends it an air of professionalism, despite the numerous messy moments and lack of real musical intrigue. Until I learnt, very late on, how to use my voice in recordings, the singing was always the single detail that made my songs sound like the work of a hobbyist, not a real, proper musician. Listening to instrumentals like this or Imminent Death And Bubbles allowed me to escape from the prison of my own voice box.

But, as I’ve mentioned before, these vague non-substantial efforts don’t stand the test of time. They exist in my memory like weak sighs, like my past self was never really trying to be anything when he made them. I prefer the anguished cries of my over-dramatic, under-worked songs because I can hear the ambition behind the shit.

Real life memory: my friend, the bassist in my school band, once told me he liked the bit in the middle, starting 1.47, and that it sounded ‘a bit like Gershwin’. After nodding confidently but modestly, I went home to look up Gershwin and was pretty happy with that comparison. Basically I just play a few dissonant notes on the bass over some chords. It’s not jazz, it’s not Gershwin. It does sound nice though, I’ll stand by that.

I also remember exactly where I was standing in the kitchen when I played my parents the song, and which speakers I played it on, as my Dad made dinner. I don’t know exactly what his comment was, but I know it was weakly negative – an elaborate ‘meh’. I think this stuck in my mind because it was a clear example of that moment when the bubble of self-congratulation you can become stuck in while creating anything bursts. I had become convinced, I think, that Poder Nadar was a great leap forwards. Maybe it was, in my quest to become the World’s Premier Elevator Music Composer.

 

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In The Corner

The chronological order of these songs is for some reason becoming increasingly hard at the moment. Once again, I began writing with eager fingers, ready to type the words ‘Middle Era’ in a welcoming fashion, perhaps with fancy formatting like this:

Welcome to The Middle Era.

Instead I’ve spent the last hour desperately trying to muddle my way through this blended 2008-2009 world, relying on my infamously unreliable memory, my dodgy, untrustworthy document ambitiously titled ‘Discography’, and certain musical clues in songs like: How shit is it? And, to what extent does the singer sound like an annoying 15 year old?

My heart and my head both tell me that In The Corner was probably written before most of the last 6 or so songs I posted. But the rest of my body is sitting comfortably, knowing I’ll never have the dedication nor research skill to definitively prove this is the case.

So, In The Corner will sit here awkwardly, camouflaged in its 2nd verse strings and extra percussion, which were almost definitely added months later, thereby causing Mass Chronological Confusion.

Anyway, the song itself:

In The Corner was a big one. One of my most successful pop songs, I thought at the time. It is catchy, no doubt…

When I listen to it, I think of the disgusting blue t-shirt I was wearing as my band played Battle of the Bands. It was our first gig, we brought loads of friends, we won, and I’m pretty sure we played In The Corner as our last song. It’s an extremely happy memory – one of the times where being in a band really does feel like the most fun thing in the world. A memory which is only slightly tainted by how much I dislike the song now.

But I do dislike it. There’s something so annoyingly naive about it. The lyrics all about being friends, the sickly sweet melody, sung sickeningly badly by myself. The acoustic guitar, the bouncy bass line, with the top string clearly out of tune. The drum groove stolen from Easy by Lionel Richie (ok I actually quite like that bit). The Lighthouse Family style strings. The ‘oh oh oh oh oh oh’ bits in the chorus. I imagine my friends in the band thinking fuckin ‘ell not this one again. Being embarrassed at me croaking it out each time. I assume really they were none the wiser. But the whole thing does seem a bit lame. We played this song for a long time in the band. GUYS. WAKE UP. BE A BIT MORE OFFENSIVE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.

As a side note, I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that my first collection of my own songs on iTunes was called ‘Invasion’. Haha. Then it later graduated and became ‘Quick, Invasion!’ which is awfully emo. We’re still in the ‘Quick, Invasion!’ phase here. But just think of that phrase and then In The Corner playing in the background. It’s hilariously inappropriate. I spent so long unsure of what I wanted my music to actually sound like. And it’s a million miles away from In The Corner.

What A Shame

This song slipped through the radar, probably because its more recent version, helpfully entitled ‘What A Shame New’, was created in 2008. The original, however, was written in 2007, and it shows. It shows so much that I can’t understand why I chose to go over it again. And, given that I did go over it again, why did I do so little with it? Actually, come to think of it, did I make it worse?

Yeah, comparing them right now, I think I did.

The newer one is better only in the sense that it has fewer actual mistakes. The singing is marginally better. But the mix is much worse; the earlier one sounds rougher and edgier, like the whole thing is coming out of a shit guitar amp. My voice has an earnest aggression to it which suits the lofi amateurish noise of the recording. The newer one is muddy and bassy, flat, uninspiring, boring.

Both versions have my characteristically nonsensical lyrics from the aged 14-15 era. They’re just terrible, I mean the comical lines:

‘You’re looking at the man in the crowd
Who without a sound
Keeps everyone’s head down.
Maybe it’s his gun’

are kind of stupid but yeah ok maybe it’s a joke song let’s give this guy a chance. But then we get to the bridge:

‘What a shame I could not stay
All alone I’ll be afraid
Why work when you’ve got time?
You should come and see one of mine’

What am I trying to say? As always, just throwing words together at random. It must be the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ fault.

I can’t think of a single biographical thing to say about this song. It summons no memories for me, beyond the fact that I re-recorded some it completely pointlessly. I perhaps remember a vague feeling of hope: ‘yeah… maybe if the drums are played more tightly… and the harmonies are sung better… we could have something…’ And then an inevitable small but numbing disappointment when the song remained the same old dead horse.

It’s amusing because after the last few songs I had begun to think that my past self had turned a corner. I had planned to include in this post the declaration that we had firmly reached the middle era of my music, and that a touch of professionalism would start to creep in from now. Well, the thought is banished.

What a shame.

 

NB: I have run out of space on my Soundcloud (almost 50 songs… and we’ve got nowhere). Songs will now be posted as basic YouTube videos.

NB2: the guitar in What A Shame sounds like the guitar in this: