can’t explain / don’t stop believin’
February 13, 2009
there’s that stupid hornbyesque debate about whether you’re a beatles person or a stones person and if you’re a beatles person that’s supposed to mean i guess that you’re idealistic and a dreamer and wear t-shirts and if you’re a stones person that’s supposed to mean you’re dirty and outre and have a predilection for pentatonic scales and whiskey. or something. i’m a who person, though, which doesn’t mean anything except that i’m weird. that’s because i’m too weird to pick a side in the great rock music binary but also because the who are/were weird. my first favorite album (back when having a favorite album seemed like such a vital, important thing) was the who sell out, which is a concept album about pirate radio stations which were located on ships off the coast of england and is loaded with loads of faux-product placement and skits. every band that releases enough music will eventually record some weird songs (the beatles have “piggies” and “good morning, good morning” and “martha my dear”, just to name the animal themed ones; the stones have that whole satanic majesties album as well as numerous things during the eighties) but basically all of the who’s songs are weird songs, besides the few cliche daltrey and moon-penned numbers and some motown covers on their first album. their weirdness is, i think, exemplified by their love songs. most bands have lots of pretty, universal i wanna make it with you kind of pop love/sex songs. the who don’t. pete townshend and jon entwistle’s love songs are either weird character studies (“substitute,” about being inauthentic) or weird issue oriented songs (“pictures of lily,” about jerking off to porn) or if they are love songs they’re about grandiose cosmic hippy dippy love (“see me, feel me“) and not person to person love.
“can’t explain” is probably the who’s least weird love song, besides the aforementioned daltrey/moon crap (other possibilities — sunrise, you better you bet). it’s almost too unweird; the lyrics are basic and stupid (i mean, god, there’s a blue/true rhyme) and are really just there as filler around the riff, like powder on a jelly donut. in covering it, i feel like dealing with the riff (that riff!) was the biggest thing i had. i either had to completely emphasize it (making the song all about the riff and nothing else) or i had to get rid of it entirely — no lame AOR middle ground. i decided to get rid of the riff and just do it with a punky downstroke bassline and a digitally distorted 909. i tried to add some synths but they didn’t fit for some reason so there’s just the one in the instrumental verse.
since i’m posting one lo-fi classic rock cover, i figured i might as well post this one too, which i recorded a while ago but didn’t release for obvious reasons, the obvious reasons being that it is absolutely abysmal and i’ll stress that i’m releasing it as a document and not as a song; i want to stress that. early last fall, i had this idea to do this thing with julia allison’s lipdubs where i would invert them — that is, i would have the video of her pretending to sing but then as the audio track i would have a naked acapella instead of the original song. the idea was to defamiliarize and emphasize the pomo weirdness of singing along to your ipod alone in front of a camera to post on the internet. the first thing i realized is that no matter how good i think it sounds in the shower, i can’t sing acapella. but then i decided that i would do a band arrangement and so problem solved. the smart way to do that would’ve been to, i guess, get the tempo locked down in sync with the original and lay in some drum parts and then build everything around that but, see, i am not smart like that and so i just tried to play guitar along with the video and then add all the parts on top of that, especially trying to match my vocal to julia allison’s lip movements in the video.
except that doesn’t work at all, leading to this trainwreck of a song. i do like that if i destroyed a song, i destroyed “don’t stop believin’.” don’t get me wrong, i think it’s a great song and not in that stupid hipster “OMG it’s my turn at karaoke” kind of way but just because it’s a good song well arranged and produced and steve perry is a great singer. but it’s still better for me to trash it because of all the trash that’s been done to it — it seems fitting. god, this writing is horrible! what happened to me? i think i’m going to stop with the daily music tomorrow. i feel like the prose part of my brain is broken (like this song!) and i thought doing music for a week would help but i think it’s actually making it worse, if that’s possible. yargh. so i don’t like this post but i do like this song. it sucks but maybe in a nice way that feels good.