Posts Tagged ‘hat trick’

This brings me back to when I wanted to take a special course on prosody: the metrics of poetry, the rhyme schemes, the rhythms, and all the technical stuff that went into this subject, captured best by reliable textbooks of the 19th century I used to own and peruse. A professor, uninterested, dissuaded me saying I could learn it on my own, implictly hinting as well that it likely wasn’t worthwhile. As a writer of poetry and student of older poetry especially, I was a bit disappointed, but did teach myself a thing or two.

How strange to think about that time and this topic after such a long time away from “home,” but the simple, deliberate poetic choices of “The Sun and the Rainfall” of our parallel post brings me back. 

Someone will call
Something will fall
And smash on the floor
Without reading the text
Know what comes next
Seen it before
And it’s painful
[The rhyme scheme is straightforward AABCCBD. The “someone” and “something” is a nice touch too.]
Things must change
We must rearrange them
Or we’ll have to estrange them
All that I’m saying
A game’s not worth playing
Over and over again
[ABBCC and A (almost). Two “feminine” rhymes, that is two-syllable rhymes, “-ange them,” for example. I like how the two “-ange them” rhymes are tied to the first line’s “change.” Assonance throughout, with the “ay” sounds, viz. -ange, -aying, -ain.]
You’re the one I like best
You retain my interest
You’re the only one
If it wasn’t for you
Don’t know what I’d do
Unpredictable like the sun
And the rainfall.
[Return to the first verse, AABCCBD, with the D here nearly the same as the first verse’s: “painful” and “rainfall” with the plangent consonance and variation of the vowel sounds, slant rhyme. Nice, harmonious touch as in the first verse, leading with “you’re” and “you retain,” which is even an eye rhyme: “you’re” and “you re”.]
Not only is this craft of this poetry charming and beautiful, the song is part of one of the great “hat tricks” (three great songs in a row): “Photograph of You,” “Shouldn’t Have Done That,” and the cap, “The Sun and the Rainfall.”
What better song, with it’s soft, slightly muffled production, complex layering, tiny tinges of sound, music in no hurry, subtly poetic lyrics, and highest of compliments? It brings to mind an A. E. Housman poem in style and atmosphere.
And what better album to listen to on one of those hottest summer days of the year with blearing sun and wistful memories and, as so often, rainfall on my mind?



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No Doubt: Return of Saturn

An album listen. A rough record of my thoughts while listening.

Ex-Girlfriend: Guitar strings, then a driving beat. Smart, sharp, but romantic and vulnerable. So this album begins, with its mysteries to me when I first listened to it, a decade after it had come out. But it brought me back to when it came out, when Gwen Stefani and I (of similar age) were similarly looking at our futures. She had plans, me I had never really paid much attention to nailing things downand I suppose that’s what this album and lead-off song are all about, one person with a clear wish for settling down, the other not feeling as much urgency despite wanting the same thing. Here’s the bridge, a little of the whine of Tragic Kingdom when she’d enamored me with “I’m Just a Girl” and “Spiderwebs” in the mid-90s, just five years before this leap.

Simple Kind of Life: Super transition to this crunchy song. This is a new No Doubt and the band is going along with her lyrics, not ska-ing it up constantly, which made Tragic Kingdom a hit or miss. Gwen at her most vulnerable and honest. Who wouldn’t want just the simple kind of life? If we’d opted for that, would we be happier now, would we have been happier then? “I’m covered in shells,” I love that cryptic image. “Oh, I always was the one with all the love, you came along, I’m hunting you down / Like a sick domestic abuser looking for a fight,” I love those lines. She understands young love in its all its aspects. I love how she adds that “oh” between lines. Gorgeous layers of sound, drum fills, her voice at its finest. It’s all really simple enough, this song, but No Doubt had and never has surpassed it. How she turns over different modulations of the refrain at the end, “A simple kind of life….”

Bathwater: Notwithstanding the performance that brought me this song, cue up Sanjaya on AI, this one hangs with the previous two in a gorgeous hat trick. Comical, music hall, yet still touching and effective for all its ooky, okay gross, chorus image. Yes, we do really feel that way when in lovewe’d wash in their bathwater. In fact that may be the clearest sign of love, being more than willing to more than tolerate others’ bodily functions and fluids. Gwen is once again led down the primrose path, not thinking about the future, thinking through what dating this person would be like, would it come to anything, would it just work out somehow despite everything? The comical girl voice at the bridge, it’s junior high all over again. She’s almost tripping over the complex alliteration here, but it’s working as the song traipses to its final chorus. The little girl voice returns again as she relishes her wash in nostalgic disregard, like a kid with a serious crush.

Six Feet Under: The hat trick that starts the album ends, and this song’s alright, but nothing special, a return to the old No Doubt. Good beat, the melody and lyrics not quite up to the previous three. Would the album return to form or is this another case of a 50/50 album like Tragic Kingdom50/50 being what I call an album that is half great, half virtually skippable. There are a fair number of these even in the albums I’ve kept, and it shows how hard it is to make a great cover to cover album.

Magic’s In The Makeup: An instant return to the first three super songs, amazing! Her voice pretty again, sentiment open, vulnerable, trying to overcome her girlhood ways. “I’m a chameleon,” how fun to sing along with that. “Makeup’s all off, who am I, the magic’s in the make up, who am I?” What a chorus, what a chorus! (I always thought she was saying, “Makeup’s all wrong,” also good) The magic in the makeup on her face, the making stuff up in her mind about who she really is and what she really wants. What is her true make-up? Again, amazingly touching, and the chorus and voice and accompaniment all work together startlingly well. Lovely modulations of the lyrics and melody. “I wanna be the real thing,” and she wants the real thing when it comes to love and relation to the world as well.

Artificial Sweetener: Sister of the previous, a little more aggressive, more sexual. “The return of Saturn,” amazing to sing along with. The mystery of the phrase before I learned what it referred to. Still, not knowing exactly what it meant, there was a menace to it, fitting for the raw assessment of her life, the “second guessing,” and the artificiality of all she does and has done. “I’m only sure that I’m not sure.”

Marry Me: Another contemplative little tune, confessing again her humble, conventional side. I had this too, I have it, I never cried out to be an artist, but here I am in my current situation with those writerly dreams at least half my humble ambitions. Echoing her earlier self, teasing to remind us of her first hit song, beginning a verse singing “A girl in the world…” Echoing when she wasn’t thinking who would be the one to marry her, but proclaiming her grrrring independence in that song that grabbed me: “I’m Just a Girl.” Nothing wrong with wanting a conventional life and still freedom to choose our way, independent identity even in a close relationship. She is both the woman of “Marry Me” and “I’m Just A Girl,” and maybe that’s why everything seems askew in her experience of this world.

New: Immediately catchy, starting with the chorus. Caught up in the immediate rush of “different than the former,” has she abandoned the wishes of the previous slew of songs or is this new guy the one who will fix up the mess of wishes that has become her life?

Too Late: Churning guitar, then back to the wistful, whimsical Gwen, wanting to parade her new love from the previous song (apparently about her Bushy future and now past husbandthis song fittingly begins like a famous Bush song). Again “Fulfillment just adds fuel to the blaze,” hard to pick out, fun to sing, more alliteration. Her wordiness is fun on this album and she had it in Tragic Kingdom too. The butterfly lines, gorgeously described. Is it another relationship that will end without marriage, in sheer disappointment after initial fervor? She can’t get past the indifference that can come after lust is sated. It seems so. :(

Comforting Lie: Another wonderful melody for her to play her voice on. Great, frantic chorus. So fun to sing along with “Oh build a bomb and blow it away blow it away ” ending with a lovely guitar bit back to the verses. On and on and I would love it. And it seems the reationship of the previous few songs is gone in dramatic fashion, with a joy in blowing it up. Sort it out, toss it away, just give up, but she can’t decide…. “I’m feeling weak, yeah……” Amazing how the album keeps yielding such precious moments to feel and sing and revel in.

Suspension Without Suspense: Clever title and wonderful working through of the chorus, the story of her life and this album as she wrestles with finding what she really wants and falling into traps along the way. I’ve had a relationship or two or like this: “We get so far and then it just starts rewinding, and the same old song we’re playing it again, suspension without suspense, intention without intent.” I find myself singing this couplet often. We can’t get any further in this relationship, it’s stuck, it cannot build any higher, but I don’t want to lose it, why can’t things stay the same?

Staring Problem: Instant turn-off once one starts to notice it, and maybe starts skipping it, but why skip a weak tune on a top-tier album? I got over skipping it and kinda like it now. It has a goofy fun to it, especially with her little piped-in voice in the background of the break, itching to fight saying crazy stuff and that little girl voice joining her in the chorus, and then the shouts at the end. “Predisposed cat fighter.” Seems shorter than its 2:44 and the gamelan ending way cool, shades of my 1998 first experience of that music, not long before this album came out!

Home Now: Jam-type (well, Style Council and Crowded House too) beginning with station waiting room announcement voices, maybe she is hitting the road. Seems like the final song of the album, but it’s not. Only downside is the intervening of the old No Doubt and its a-melodic ska stuff in the break. It’s catchy and weird here, a semi-weakness of an awesome song. These last two songs again somehow return this album to genius. so well over half of the songs are top top tier with nearly all the others good to very good. “What you givin’ up for me, what shall I give up for you? I love the “shall.” Wondrous chorus, delayed: “If you lived here you’d be home now.” Sweet voice, driving chorus to the extreme with the layering and keyboard stabs, guitar lacing around the affair. Horns, “casual light days, part of the furniture,” guitar lacing again. Could go on another ten minutes musically, with more chorus please please.

Dark Blue: Enticing title and use of “dark blue” in the lyrics, giving a cosmic tone to Return of Saturn. Cool harpsichord, it’s too bad you’re so sad, “Unlike you I had it easy, you’re dark blue.” I never did catch that first phrase; I thought it was a garbled “moonlight blue.” Suburban, nice family me and Gwen vs. whoever she’s with and his dark blue past. Wanting to heal her loved one. So much love to give and no one to give to…

Piano Coda, Too Late: The Cardigans did this, Madness too in a way, but not so affecting as here. But here it lets her be alone with her thoughts, and I’m alone with mine.

As I said before, nothing else captures the feel of that time for me even though I didn’t know the album then. The late 90s, when I wound down grad school and found new work and then struggled subconsciously to settle down, trying to get over and get started with things that didn’t work out. Truly staggering. Time travel through one of the most important albums of my life.


Saturn from 1996 to 2000, by NASA Hubble








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There was a time when reading about music was enough to set it in your mind and eventually lead to a purchase, songs unheard.

The Jamwho emulated much and in turn produced much to emulatewas probably my first example of this. I still remember the thrilling ride all the way up the tedious highway to Woodfield Mall to visit a music shop that had such alternative/British stuff. I bought the cassette of their second album, This Is The Modern World, and listened to it on the drive home.

It was the first scrap of music I’d ever heard by The Jam, but reading about them I had to check it out; I had decided they were for me. Thought of as a rushed, mediocre second album, it remains a favorite for this association, not to mention the music being damn good too. Critics. Interesting knowing what the first song you heard by a band was: “The Modern World” in this case.

In the mid 2000s, I read snippet (p)reviews of albums or concerts by CSS and Blonde Redhead. The former was a cheeky comet in the night that holds up pretty well (the album’s still in my “best albums” storage case). Blonde Redhead, the beginning of an intoxicating latter-half-of-my-life relationship. (More on them another day, for sure.)


Cansei de Ser Sexy, with clipped art that intro’d me to the group.

It’s hard to capture how many singles and albums were dreamed of and bought thanks to the Encyclopedia of British Beat Groups & Solo Artists of the Sixties by Omnibus Press. I learned of The Flowerpot Men, a zippy Salvation Army Band, and true obscurities like Beau Brummell (“I Know Know Know”) and Bruno (who produced “a brace of singles”). There was Forest with their “gentle, swirling music”an only partially applicable description of their brace of albums.

There were cool low-tech images: a gorgeous pelvic-thrust of a picture of Elkie Brooks (still never listened to her music) and a dot matrix masterpiece of a laughing Freddie Garrity.


Record catalogs had an effect too, with names of songs sticking in my head and often ending up purchased and revolving on my record playerthe only way to hear the lyrics to these tantalizing scraps of music history. There was really no other way to hear an obscure song unless you wanted to pester a local DJ who just might have a dusty record lying around somewhere. And what if the song was embarrasingly bad?

And then there’s songs you’d hear on the radio. Usually one song was all it took, and maybe a little sampling in the record shop. It was acquiredpurchased, or a copy obtained from a friend. Ahhhh, good old days.

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One of the cooler conservation organizations out there, the Center for Biological Diversity, sent me a postcard with a beautiful red fox looking at me with the poem “Keeping Quiet” beside. It’s by Pablo Neruda and I hope you’ll read it and mull it over, maybe even recognize it as your natural state, one that seems to have been forced upon many people these days who are so used to unceasing hustling. Without going on about it, I had never read this poem before, and it perfectly reflects the way to combat this gospel of profit margin, of anthropocentric growth, of getting ahead that so pervades human endeavor.

Speaking of celebrating the profitless, have you voted in the Signac puzzle piece poll yet?

I’ve been spending some more time with Divine Discontent by Sixpence None The Richer, listening more closely and associations that were vague now register.

There is the Crowded House cover, track 4, and one that brings to mind Alanis Morissette (5), early late Beatles (10), Bacharach or Alpert (11), and not sure, but someone (12), all delivered with Leigh Nash’s rich vocals and Matt Slocum’s rich orchestration and deft (along with Sean Kelly) guitar playing.

As usual, the best songs are the ones penned by Slocum alone. There’s even a developing “hat trick,” as I call a wonderful succession of three songs that lead off the somber festivities: “Breathe Your Name,” “Tonight,” and “Down and Out of Time.” This last is my favorite song at this point, and one Nash also contributed to.

Slocum’s songwriting remains at the high level of their big hit album, and his vulnerability and confessional knowledge of his own weaknesses remains as well. “I’ve Been Waiting” hooks you in and takes the breath away. “Down and Out of Time” captures some of the song that began their previous album“We Have Forgotten” has this lashing out: “don’t go, I’ll shoot you down.” “Down and Out of Time” says, “I aim my cannon at you ready or not / You’re gonna feel my pain like it or not.”

There’s no nicer song to sing along with. And it’s perfect for this time when so much is grounded and, despite all the pain for so many, there is much to be found in exactly thatbeing grounded. “Perhaps this earth can teach us / as when everything seems dead / and later proves to be alive.”

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