Saturday, March 15, 2008

All I wanted was to sing the saddest song #2 - The Music of St. Blake

Blake Schwarzenbach holds a special place in the history of sad songs. Jawbreaker put out some damn sad music, as did Jets to Brazil, especially on their first album. It's a testament to Schwarzenbach's skill as a writer that these songs work.

Sea Foam Green - The real kick in the teeth for this song is the bridge: "Tried to drink you off my mind, I just got wasted. It only made the pain that much more acute - cute isn't strong enough a word, unintentionally gorgeous." Those two sentences capture, better than anything I've read, how it feels to want to give up on someone, but finding that the harder you try, the harder it is. That last bit where acute pain goes to unintentionally gorgeous, is brilliant; at the bottom of the bottle that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and your desire get all mixed up, and you're no longer sure if you feel good or bad.

Accident Prone - Where "Sea Foam Green" suggest a specific moment - for me at least, there's a definite memory that I can see when I close my eyes - "Accident Prone" is a different, longer kind of sad. "It hasn't been my day for a couple years, what's a couple more?" Everything about this song - that plodding bassline, that deliberately slow guitar in the verses, - sounds beat up, and then it builds and builds, and just when it gets unbearable, it explodes into the final chorus: "a near miss or a close call, I keep a room at the hospital, I scratch my accidents to the wall...I got to you there was nothing left, I got to you, there was nothing left." It's heartbreaking. It's also the only song I've ever seen make my father tear up - his first words to me after hearing it were "powerful stuff." I agree.

Jets To Brazil:
Conrad - What happens when you borrow some melodic material from the one Beatles song capable of causing actual melancholy, and then add that to terribly sad words about suicide? You get a song that's amazingly tragic. The story of a girl who checks into a motel to kill herself, told in a flurry of images - "a week up front, asks not to be bothered," "readies herself, apologizing to the motel maids," "warming her wrists, in promising water," "double edged and super-blue, vertically letting the life from you" - pulls back, with the tune of "Nowhere Man" to paralyzed, watching angels, hovering near the shower-head maybe, knowing "only that they can't quite tear themselves from the view." It's that pull-back, watching the song with the angels, that makes it so devastating.

I Typed For Miles - Pure desperation. The strained vocals, for one, get that message across. It's a slow descent into insanity, from the comparisons about the narrator's craft - writing is "like figure skating, like asphyxiating" - to the denial of "leave me here to my devices, the call could come at any time," to "tied my ankles to the table legs with wire, he can't write so much as type" and the final, cathartic outburst of "they're playing love songs on your radio tonight, I don't get those songs on mine - you keep fucking up my life." It's not related to anything I remember, but it's a moving portrait.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Also, I suspect the title of "Conrad," if not the basic theme, is a reference to Ordinary People, which would be fitting.

And I agree with this post and the previous one.