Trouble

I wrote you a song for Christmas. It’s not very Christmassy, mind you. After my last effort clocked in at almost 7 minutes, and was extremely ponderous and (arguably) overproduced, I thought I’d cut loose and scream into a microphone for a couple of minutes. So the usual drill then: have a listen (it’s under three minutes, so you can manage it), read the lyrics, and then I’ll join you further down the page for a cup of tea and a natter.

Lyrics

You said you wanted more than the girl next door
Now you’re kneeling down on a bathroom floor
Holes in your tights and your knees are all bloody
And your throat is sore don’t you miss your mummy?
It doesn’t really matter who walks through the door
They’re gonna find out you’re not a girl any more
You’re not a girl any more

The lights are so much brighter and your dress is so much tighter
You’re a one stop girl – not a lover you’re a fighter
You’re in too deep and you’re only getting deeper
But it just goes to show you’re not a girl any more
You’re not a girl any more

What would your mummy say
What will your daddy say
It doesn’t really matter cos I’m gonna have you anyway

T.R.O.U.B.L.E
That’s what you look like to me
T.R.O.U.B.L.E
That’s what you look like to me

Post Match Analysis

Women spell trouble.

That’s one way to read this anyway. Like, I suspect a lot of men, I find women intoxicating when I let my guard down. Some damp, dark recess in the airless part of the brain is full of primitive urges and impulses that oftentimes makes it impossible not to look at a woman without some terrible, dark hunger nagging away in the background. I’m reasonably civilised, and married however, and I keep such thoughts tucked well away. But lot of my closest friendships have been with women over the years. I completely believe in platonic friendships between the sexes, and I suppose part of me sometimes wonders if it’s really that simple, or whether the lizard parts of my brain have other sublimated ideas.

Sometimes though you get a very definite vibe from a woman. It’s often not even about overt sexuality. Like a spider can sense the tremor of a fly on a distant part of a web, you sometimes get a little vibration that whispers “she definitely would.” I know this sounds horribly reductive, and I’m equally sure that plenty of women have the exactly same sense too. I suppose it’s all part of the tangled, messy human drama. As much as we dress ourselves up with our fancy mores and politesse the veneer of morality can be alarmingly thin, and all too easily scratched.

The flipside of this song is that it can also be read as a woman finding her own sexual agency, and giving in to her own desires to do exactly what she wants to do – regardless of how disreputable and messy that might look in life. It comes out in the line “you’re not a girl any more” – she’s an adult, and if she wants to give blowjobs in the toilets then hey; it’s a free world.

Maybe you recognise some of these things in yourself. Or maybe you think I’m a slightly pervy twat.

So, as very rarely happens, the lyric for this came a long time before the music. For those of you with a long memory, I mentioned this lyrical idea all the way back in 2018 when I wrote a similarly ‘surf’ tune called Toehold.

Musically, I drove myself batshit over the last couple of weeks with my Floydian, borderline prog epic Closing Time. That was endless layers of guitars…. programming string parts… sampling speeches and trying consciously to make a song with real heft. So maybe it’s no surprise that this song takes exactly the opposite approach. It’s basically build from the rhythm track up – starting with honest-to-goodness beatboxing, and ending up with about 6 channels of drums and percussion.

The guitars speak for themselves really. It’s Dick Dale type surf song when you break it down.

But the most distinctive element is probably the vocal. My last umpteen songs have been gentle, winsome and generally “well sung.” It might surprise you to learn that for most of my career as a live singer people have accused me of having a very “rock” voice – or sometimes even a “soul” voice. Occasionally it crops up in some of my songs (such as 404, or Everything I Want) but most of my songs are written on an acoustic guitar and end up sounding like it. As I close in on being 50 years old, I am increasingly aware that at some point in the next handful of years I’m probably going to lose some of my vocal range, and eventually be completely unable to sing like this at the top of my chest register for any length of time. Now that I hardly ever play live, I don’t get to work my voice out like this so I had an absolute blast singing the fuck out of it.

The result is a fucking rough sounding wall of noise that you could probably fairly characterise as a sonic mess.

I have nothing further to say on the matter at this time.

Closing Time

Heeey – let’s listen to a party tune! If that’s what you’re thinking – what with this being Saturday night and all – then you’ve got another think coming. And that’s because I proffer to you a ponderous meditation on the human condition at a less-than-sprightly 68bpm. We are where we are though. None of chose to be here – this is just how the fates have fallen. Have a little listen, read the lyrics and I’ll see you later down the page to bring you another scintillating insight into my mental processes.

lyrics

We were so busy being happy
We didn’t notice we were sad
Oh well. I guess it’s just too bad.

We were so happy to be young
We didn’t notice we got old
Is it just me, or is it getting cold?

Did someone turn the light off?
Or is it closing time?

We were so busy playing rich
We never noticed we were poor
All to keep up with the Jones next door

We were too busy making friends
To realise we were alone
And living a lie, through the screen of a phone

Would someone turn the light off,
Now it’s closing time

Time tells the truth and never lies
(Time is passing you by)
We’re all marking time till closing time
Is there any point in going on
If everything you do and everything you knew is wrong

We were all caught up in the future
We didn’t notice that the past
Had caught up to us, because nothing can last

We were so busy painting rainbows
That we didn’t notice when the sky
Broke into two and started to cry

Would someone turn the light off?
I think it’s closing time

It’s closing time
Isn’t it time that you found out what makes a man?
Are you a man, are you a man, are you a man?

Thoughts

Slow that, wasn’t it? There’s a reason for that, and it’s quite sad and personal, so let’s get that out of the way first. I first used this chord progression, standard though it is, seated at a piano during my most depressive phase. The time where, beset by the troubles I’d brought on myself, bedevilled by failing mental health, adrift from almost all my friends, and never more alone, I necked a load of booze and pills and lay down in a bath to die. As you can see, I didn’t, but it sparked a song at the time called All Fucked Up.

I find it hard to look at that period of my life now, but the music stuck with me. And eventually became the backbone of this song.

Unusually for me though, the main impetus for this came from a lyric: “We were so busy being happy, we didn’t notice we were sad.” There’s something very much Roger-Waters-Era-Floyd about that thought, and the rest of the lyric came pretty easily from that. We’re all distracted by things in life that detract from our spiritual happiness overall. We’re making online friends while neglecting our neighbours. Often enjoying lifestyles we can’t really afford.

And there’s something in the air. Do you feel it? The last couple of decades – from the moment the planes hit the twin towers – have seen a slow unravelling of all kinds of old certainties. Trump might be on his way out of the White House, and the Brexit saga might be coming to some kind of (probably disastrous) end, but it feels very much like something has broken. A wheel has come off the cart of history and we’ve spilled out all over the floor in a tangled mess. We might never put things back together.

Maybe it was always this way. I’m sure if you looked back at headlines from any time in history you’d see panicky jeremiads about how we’re this close to collapse. But… it does really feel like the end of some kind of era is with us.

Hence: closing time.

Are the shutters really coming down on the UK? I don’t know any more than you do. But I do think the country is not recognisable from the one I grew up. Not just in the depth of political division, but in the culture itself. Old certainties have melted like snow in the sun. Old faces and cultural totems have passed into dust. I used to think 5-10 years ahead and feel fairly certain that some things would always be there for better or for ill: The BBC… the NHS… the EU…. and now I can’t even guess what the next 12 weeks hold in store – much less the next year.

Maybe it’s time to find out if I’m a man?

And so, as the song meandered through the self-consciously over the top finale, it felt natural to let the unease spill out into  a sprawling soundscape of atonal noise, and clips from Winston Churchill… Enoch Powell… Morecambe and Wise… England football fans… various other things.

Is it any good? I dunno. I like the main body of the song well enough. It’s an unusually cohesive lyric for me. And I laboured long and hard over the arrangement (might still chuck in some more guitars though) but is this worth almost 7 minutes?

Well that, dear reader, is up to you.