Monday, June 25, 2007

A VAGUE DISCUSSION OF CITY-LIFE LYRICS AND ANTI-WAR SENTIMENT IN MUSIC



Jamie T - Fox News

Your favourite sea-side holiday get-away was purchased yesterday by a company where even the lowliest press-officer is never seen wearing anything less than an Armani suit, fresh from the dry-cleaner. City life wears you out and though you love it (and in truth, it's all you've ever been truly used to) you've always craved the odd weekend away. And now that escape is gone.



To think of it another way, just think about an adorable Cavalier King Charles named Oscar. His coat is golden brown and only last week he was groomed - he looks beautiful. He had a stroke a few days ago and now he's either damaged his sight or his balance. Maybe even both. Whereas before he would tug on the leash, he now walks unsteadily beside you, like a drunk-driver pulled over by the police and asked to walk in a straight line. And he strays left and then right and the whole time he looks confused. Where once everything seemed exciting and new, now even the simplest things (like a shell on the beach, for instance) are baffling. His eager puppy-dog enthusiasm for life has seemingly, for the past few days, at least, changed into bored confusion and vague anger (with a hint of miserable indifference). And he's so thirsty! When walking along the concrete-streets he laps up dirty puddle water, and his owner feels awful for having to drag him away (it's one of the few times recently he's looked slightly happy).

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Maybe city-life isn't all it's cracked up to be. The endless entertainment, the lack of moral substance - a place "where boys fuck girls that they never will marry". So many acquaintances and so few real friends. And when you're out for the night "you must lust touch, 'cause you want so much". And despite the fact that you "smell love-struck", really you just "feel alone". It's not sexual physical contact that you want, just a reassuring hug from either sex. At least in a shitty village you recognise every face, and you probably go out of your way to acknowledge every other one.

The reason the line, "Do you ever feel like you want to go home?" resonates, is because of the implication that home has disappeared* - swallowed up by the capitalists and the corporate suits, catering to your every consumerist desire, and the media reducing night-life to a choice selection of stereotypes, each of which it now seems necessary to fulfil - all this resulting in your life being filled with vacuity where once there was substance (as opposed to substances).

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I watched Oscar walk along the narrow corridor of the caravan just there now. He banged his head against wall. Maybe it was frustration, or maybe he really can't see straight anymore, but at least, like Jamie T, he's trying to move forward.

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Side-notes: Notice that amidst the lyrical disillusionment with city-life, there is also evidence of Jamie T's anti-war beliefs - coupled with his frustration regarding the falseness of the "it's bullshit" media, ("well pigs fucking fly and it ain't about oil and fox news has always been fair and balanced"), and also, seemingly, a wandering diatribe against the fact that communication with others (via the telephone) is expensive.


(image source: The Guardian)

Lo-Fi-Fnk - The City (The Teenagers Remix) [Info]

In parallel with the aforementioned then, is this song. It starts out with proclamations of love for the city and its homeliness ("Boy it's great to be back home - the city - that's where we belong") but then the excitement matures into a mild frustration ("beginning feels like oh-so-great but soon it turns to just-ok"), which is tempered by an obvious affection for the city. It's worth noting that the song still ends with the recurring motif, "still it's great to back home / the city, that's where we belong". If you took the remixers name as being a deliberate part of the title, then perhaps the endless optimism can be explained. This is the perspective of teenagers, so despite all its faults, the city caters to their every need, and thus, is still home.

Interpol - NYC (Live - Black Sessions)

One of Interpol's main draws is their subtlety; their vague ambiguity that while not completely understandable, rarely fails to create a gloomy (though not over-bearing [like Editors]) grey-scale atmosphere. To try to explain or over-analyse the wandering lyrics (this time, appropriately, about city-life), would be to dismantle the charm. Download Interpol's 2004 Black Sessions here.

Hot Club de Paris - Everyeveryeverything

And if you need some light-hearted (but appropriate) relief after the moody misery, then who else to turn to but Hot Club de Paris? With a song that details the fast-paced Friday night frenzy, the frivolous tale of excess not only in lyrical form ("in the shadows of a Friday night, I walked into a brand new streetlight"), but also through the relentless, hectic musicality. The title, seemingly, sums up the constant desire that comes from city-dwelling, the insatiableness of our spirits (never enough alcohol, or friends, or dancing, or drugs - we want Every-Every-Everything!) Every night is a new beginning; a chance to shine just as bright as the nearest streetlight, the furthest star. A chance to drink up and meet new people ("I commanded those neon lights to... / To spell the new names that I learn").

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(image source: Britannica)

Jamie T - Here's Ya Getaway

Writing out the lyrics of one of the verses of this song seems like it would be more useful that redundant analysis, so that's what we'll do. Needless to say, the lyrics display more disillusionment with the city, anger at (presumably) Iraq, and perhaps even a vague nod in the direction of the homeless and poverty-stricken ("while you're asleep they're on the street"):

"In these cities, hard to see the stars overhead;
Can see the moon though - the streetlight turns it blood red .
The star symbolises the cuts we bled,
The mouth got fed, the winding alleys that we tread.
The moon, much bigger, representing the dead,
Who lie in the sewers under soldiers feet.
They stir as you march, while you're asleep they're on the street
Put your ears to the drain, you can hear them weep"


Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives

Los Campesinos! reinforce the idea that frustration with city-life (and all that that entails) and anti-war sentiment go hand-in-hand. Although the detrimental effect of sexual promiscuity, ("when you play pass the parcel with human body parts / someone might get head, but someone will get hurt"), and the detrimental effect of smoking on the taste buds - and perhaps implicit criticism of showmanship - ("yeah, it's great that you can blow smoke-rings but you won't taste her lips if you do get to kiss her") are just a few of the other topics discussed in this whimsical anti-war song. Typically student-y, the song (so perhaps ironically - since irony is the buzzword of all student-types) thinks about war but is frivolous in its convictions - seemingly saying, "yeah, let's just party and forget about it". The title itself suggests a defense of this attitude, however, ultimately saying "ok, so maybe we like to be silly, but at least when we're silly we're harmless".

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Why are city songs so appealing? Maybe it's the constant conflict between the idealist and the realist - the power-struggle that always seems to take place in an urban-vs-suburban environment. A city-wide struggle which holds sway over so much. The desire for choice without the malignant-capitalist karma; A pro-drug view that wants no casualties (be it the downfall of morality, or the actual deaths of users).

Cities are notoriously diverse and contain people from all walks of life; people of different beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. So maybe it's the fact that despite wishing that we lived in a world where everyone was entitled to their own beliefs, (you read the Qur'an, and I read the Bible, but we're both human and it's important that we both have our faiths), we have to realise that, as right-wing as it seems, our different faiths put us at war with each other. And maybe if Blair didn't side with his fellow Christian, George Bush, then Britain would lose a friend, and in twenty years, China - likely, or definitely, the dominant power - would become America's ally, and Britain's empire would be further diminished**.

Aside from this, there's the fact that though most of us are pro-choice, support equal rights, same-sex marriages and adoption rights of gay couples, we're still, when it comes down to it, seemingly right-wing in our beliefs. People criticise Mike Skinner, and Jamie T for trying to speak to (and about) 'the youth of today' when really they're just a couple of well-brought up middle-class kids, but I say, and what? But then, I'm middle class too, so I would say that. This constant conflict (left/right, Daily Mail/Guardian, socialist/capitalist, anti-/war, etc) - and the realisation of the blindingly obvious fact that not every-fucking-thing in life is black-and-white, - is summed up aptly by Jamie T with the lyric, "peeps call us right-wing but we're pretty fucking liberal / I shit you not, 'cause we're all about the equal".

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Klaxons - Atlantis to Interzone (Hadouken! Remix) [Info]

Oh, and if you didn't know already, cities are full of drugs.

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Hot Club de Paris - Shipwreck (Jamie T & Ben Bones' Stormy Weather Mix) [Info]
Hot Club de Paris - Your Face Looks All Wrong (Lo-Fi-Fnk's Scouse House Mix) [Info]
Interpol - Untitled (Datassette Remix) [Info]

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*Similar to these titular lines by Bloc Party and Bright Eyes, respectively: "Where Is Home?", "We Are Nowhere And It's Now".
**This is Tony Blair's view anyway, and one of his justifications for the war. I learn a lot from newspaper supplements.
#Uncredited photos in this post are my own.
##A person with a pro-drug stance is not necessarily a drug-user.
###Oscar seems ok now. Not perfect, but getting there (I hope).
####My favourite sea-side holiday get-away has not really been taken over by a corporation. Thank goodness.

3 comments:

E-Nyce said...

Fucking best commentary about city life I've ever read. Ever.

Llana Grave said...

I hope Oscar gets better. I am glad I ran into your post because it shines a light on city living... tomorrow I find out if I got my apartment in LA... but I only plan to stay 4 years...

Jess said...

If it makes you & Oscar feel better, dogs almost always heal from strokes. Our old guy, Jake, had a stroke in February and could only walk in circles. He also lost muscle control on the left side of his face, so we had to give him water with a syringe for the first couple of days or so. But gradually their brains rewire themselves. Jake is now 100% his old self. Took him about 3-4 weeks. The important thing is to keep them drinking and moving.

Older dogs can also get an inner ear thing that throws off their balance and can make it appear as if they've had a stroke. It's treatable as well.

So keep up hope. I'll think good thoughts for you both.