February 10, 2009
my least favorite part of songwriting is writing lyrics. i really can’t stand to do it. it’s probably because as a listener i don’t really care about lyrics that much either. when i’m really listening to music i go into this semi-autistic kind of trance state and am only kind of quasi-aware of the lyrics — the lyrics really just have to be good enough to not distract me from the overall sound image. i am so not one of those kinds of people talking about how dylan/lil wayne is poetry, man, poetry and like is studying the lyric sheet to pick up on all the heavy insight and stuff. as someone who is both a writer and musician, i like writing for the writing part of it and music for its musical qualities. and also i just find writing song lyrics so much harder than writing prose. littered across my hard drive are so many aborted projects where i’ve recorded part or even a whole arrangement of a song but failed to come up with lyrics and had to leave it behind to get dusty and old and forgotten.
i feel like lately i’ve been playing a lot of wussy acoustic guitar kind of stuff and today i wanted to break out of that and do a heavy rock kind of thing. so today i was browsing through the archives and found this really kick ass delayed drum loop i made like six months ago and decided to do a song around it (you can hear how it sounds unaccompanied at the very end of the song). back then, when i first made the loop, i had tried to accompany it with this big house piano to try to make a sort of anthemic M83 song. it sounded kind of cool but the problem, as always, was the lyrics. the lyrics i know how to write are so self conscious and silly that they’re antithetical to anthems. this makes me unique and idiosyncratic but it’s also problematic because it means the only place i can really express the big teenage emotions that make great pop music are in my covers, but then you can’t do covers all the time.
so the solution i came up with today, since i wanted to make a song in like an hour without thinking, was that i wasn’t going to write the lyrics and instead would steal them. i thought i would make the song composed of spoken word intros and interludes stolen from other songs, since i really love spoken word intros and interludes. thus, the first verse of the song is me repeating 4x the intro to the new york dolls’ “looking for a kiss.” i used to pretend to like the new york dolls; i actually really don’t care for them except for the song “trash,” a little bit of “lonely planet boy,” and, most of all, more than their actual music, the spoken word intro to “looking for a kiss.” i wanted the second verse to be me doing the spoken word intro to blondie’s “x offender,” which is my second favorite spoken word intro, but the metrical structure didn’t work or something and so i had to ditch it. instead, i did a reading of a verse of david bowie’s “five years,” which is, you know, not technically spoken word but i felt it was kind of glam and hipstery and dramatic enough to match the new york dolls bit and also i just really really love it a lot. the only original part of the song is the chorus, which is me just me shouting about wanting cool love above all other love. that’s not really how i feel, i don’t think, since i’m really not that cool and the things i fantasize about with love aren’t cool at all in a hipster way but i think i think about being cool and what that means a lot more than most people and so that’s where the chorus came from. the song is kind of sneery and mean and mocking about this “cool love,” in the same way that lily allen’s “the fear,” which i saw on the today show this morning, is sneery and mean and mocking about celebrity culture. i don’t normally like sneery and mean and mocking art but i feel like this song (and that lily allen song, which i like a lot) are also vulnerable and self-implicating and i feel like that makes them less mean or at least makes their meanness more understandable and morally acceptable.
or beyond all that just hopefully it sounds cool, which is all that’s intended, really. i ditched the m83 thing and went for something sort of goth. or maybe like a way more simplistic version of the kills. also, i was kind of aping karen o with the distorted vocals although i overdistorted them a little too much so that maybe it’s kind of hard to understand what i’m singing, but like i said, the lyrics aren’t important. that kind of vocal sound is really addictive, not just because it hides pitch and tone issues but also because it adds all these lo-fi authenticity signifiers to what you’re singing and you just kind of automatically sound much cooler than you are. hopefully.