Every once-in-a-while, I listen through my music library and wonder how people don’t pay attention to albums.
This is one of those albums.
It straddles the line between being pop gold and being depressing as hell. Something about it is unsettling. The use of synthesizers to fill in the low end leaves the album strongly in this minor chord valley where everything is awkward yet somehow beautiful.
This is far from the biggest album this band released. First Band on the Moon had the single “Love Fool” which got them a ridiculous amount of attention. This band experimented a lot with a take on the almost lounge jazz sound from the ’60s. On this album, they seemed to stray far from that dystopian and haunting sound, instead opting for a journey into almost electronica. They keep the bubble gum pop sound they cultivated, just added this layer of darkness that the ’90s did so very well.
Of course, the song best known off this album is also their second most known song ever. “My Favourite Game” follows the tried-n-true 4-chord structure, but with a twist. The chorus launches the listener into a dark hole, and this song actually works brilliantly as an example of the entire album. Complete with awkwardly placed lyrics, melodic shots, and a tradition but distorted structure.
I recommend this album highly, but everything they did is gold. Earlier albums are very lounge jazz, as I mentioned above, but later albums journey further into a darker void and explore what is possible with traditional pop. Also, this band has this awkward obsession with doing Black Sabbath covers in non-traditional ways. It’s always fantastic, and worth the adventure to find all two or three that were recorded.
In Summation: this album is well worth remembering. I recommend it highly, and very much recommend looking at the whole catalogue.
I was sitting in front of my computer listening to Deja Entendu by Brand New, thinking about how confusing and messy I have made parts of my life. I was thinking about the brash decisions I have made in the past, the things I have not taken hold of when I had the chance, how certain things were ignored for a perceived idealistic situation that never actually existed. I was lost in my head for almost an hour. I started to wonder if I was alone in doing so: I felt like voicing my depression would be a shallow cry for help. I started to dwell on the fact that my morose feelings on my life were nothing shy of a manifestation of regret, and I could not relieve myself from the idea that expressing my emotions honestly would be regarded as selfish. After all: I make the fact that I am here for people common knowledge. Why would I hazard someone coming to me with an actual issue because they worry that I have my own stuff to work through.
For the first time, in a very long time at least, I actually analyzed the words in the album that I held in such regard. They are an expression of pain, self-sabotage, regret, and belittlement. I then noticed how a large part of the music I enjoyed, the movies I watch, and the TV I entertain myself with are just perpetrating the same narrative: that everything is wrong and it is all ‘my’ fault. Of course, my used in this context is more the idea of the narrator. I see parts of myself in all of the media I enjoy. I place myself in the shoes of the protagonist. Since I have not finished my own redemption arc, I get stuck in the part where everything is horrible and I did it to myself.
I am under no illusion that I am alone in doing so. As a millenial, and being friends with mostly millenial’s, we are constantly bombarded with the idea that we are tasked with fixing all of the worlds issues that we have adopted. Even though we are not the only ones here, it has been (whether intentionally or not) placed on our shoulders to fix the climate, social issues, hunger, slavery in other parts of the world, and many other things. The most egregious part of that fact, is that the generation that has truly tasked us with this is the generation that caused all of the issues.
I am well aware that hindsight is clearer. I know that advancements in science have shown things that we have had no way of even considering not twenty years ago. So, technological advancement can explain away PARTS of things, like climate change. It does NOT explain away things like social inequality or the inherent flaws in capitalism. The worst part is that, in saying that, I know of many people who have already stopped reading. I can hear people chanting for the silence of me because I am a “socialist” and a whiner. To those people I ask: what’s actually so bad about socialism? Why is talking about social well-being or mental health a sign of weakness? Why are you angry with me, when the system has failed you over and over again?
Do I have answers? No. Will we have answers soon? Probably not.
Hey, remember how I started the rant with an analisys of the emo movement from the early 2000’s and hinted about how alternative rock coupled with that probably assisted me in getting lost in a cave of disillusionment and neglect? I wonder how I am going to tie all of this together?
The answer is only kind of. The lyrics latch onto aesthetically simple premisses (relationships, work, school), then express the emotions attached to those situations in a rather exaggerated fashion.
No, the girl or boy rejecting me does not end my world. The constant barrage of how everything is either my fault or my parents fault is literally destroying me and my sense of being. Yes, attaching all of my definition to one person is silly and juvenile, but it distracts me from noticing how quickly I am destroying everything.
You know that song you heard somewhere and you really liked it but have no clue who it’s by and the internet is such that you cannot look it up and everything is horrible because you need to find that song? Yeah — that was me about 15 years ago.
The song that I could never find was Pure Morning. It is the first track on this not-punk album. Finding that out and purchasing the album brought me down a rabbit hole where I could never find the surface, but I also never wanted to find a surface. With deceptivly simple everything, this album is amazing.
Pure Morning has lyrics similar to a child’s rhyme. Of course, if you heard your child singing these words, you would be far from ecstatic at their choice of vernacular. The entire song appears to be about discovering ones sexuality while also discovering drugs. The title “Pure Morning” reflects the relief of discovering everything the night before. The act of reflecting on your actions and adoring every decision you made.
What did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.deceptivelyWhat did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.
Anyway, off the political stuff. That continues to be a sore topic for a large number of people, and delving down that rabbit hole will take me horribly off-topic from this fantastic album.
How would I describe the sound? Think Pixies meets Pink Floyd with a dance of The Clash. How? Pixies because they buck pop norms while also being pop. Pink Floyd because of the use of effects to not only add to a sound, but actually create a sound. The Clash because… well… there really is no reason. It was a proclamation that I made without putting too much thought into it. At the same time, it kind of fits because someone would have a difficult time making me ignore the obvious punk influence in the music. Yes, they are also a pop band. Maybe saying The Clash is too much of a departure, but leaving the punk aspect to just The Pixies feels like it ignores a whole facet of influence.
ANYWAY. I could go on circles all day speaking of influence, but there is no denying that the title track (Without You, I’m Nothing, track five) is a very Pink Floyd reminiscent track. On the next release (Black Market Music), David Bowie does a duet with the singer. As much as this is, by far, my favourite track on this album, that version of the song is perfect. In acknowledging that, it DOES NOT take from this version at all. It still contains one of the best soul crushing buildups in music that I have ever found. They literally go from minimal instrumentation to ALL the instrumentation in a matter of a few bars. To add to the finesse, it beautifully flows into the next track.
Fuck me, I could go on and on about this album, but most of it would just be repeating what I already talked about, OR it would just devolve into incohearent rambles that drone on and on for much longer than I would like them to. I mean, I have speant this long and I only bought up two songs, one of which I did no description for except saying that it is amazing. So, I will sign off on this review with a song that I didn’t talk about, but is equally amazing.
I have not written one of these in a while, but the last one keeps getting new readers! If this is something you want me to do more of, let me know in the comments! I have a few albums I can think of that I feel everyone should remember or experience for the first time.
Oh, Canada! You make such good music!
I know that I keep doing retrospectives in Canadian music of albums from the ’90’s, but that was my bread and butter. I was a huge alternative nerd back then, and some of the best music came from Canada. I am sure, if this article does well, I will hit on Our Lady Peace.
I digress. I lovingly call this album “The Soundtrack for Nihilism” to no one ever.
(I need friends.)
This album has some of the bleakest outlooks on life ever put to lyrics. From the bombastic opening of Giant right through to the somber ending of Running For Home. Every song croons about “everything is fucked is and we’re all going to die so make the best of what you’ve got.”
I love it so much.
Giant is probably one of the best intro songs ever. It opens with a cheerleading group spelling ‘KICKASS’ with no backtrack what-so-ever. Then, with piercing squeals preceding it, the drum line comes crashing over everything. It’s beautiful.
From that point on, the lyrics and music paint a picture of how great it is that everything is the way it is in the most sarcastic, unfeeling way. The music reminds me of the epic crescendo’s of the ’80’s metal scene mixed with the independent movement in the early 2000’s. Leads and little more than jangles placed perfectly over steady rhythms laid out by a steady bass line. This, of course, is punctuated by the slap of crushing swells and pounding drones. The strings sound like they would be simple in execution, but they are covered in flairs you might not notice unless you were looking for them. The drums accentuate the standard pop song structure then vier wildly into the realm of progressive meters and timing without the listener even noticing.
To put it simply, this album should not work in the mainstream archetype, but does so beautifully. The bleak lyrics help along this feeling of ambiguity that the album contrives. Metaphors abound and the similes used illustrate the mind of someone defeated by society, but they do not celebrate it. They are used more to illustrate how messed up everything is, but drive home the hopeless emotion that permeated the ’90’s.
I think my ravings have proved how much I love this album. In fact, I am having a hard time picking a favourite song to share with everyone. When you have massive tracks like the aforementioned Giant and piano ballads like Strange Days with only one song between the two, to find a standout track that dictates the general feeling is really difficult. It would actually be a lot of fun to break the album down, song by song, and write a piece about each one. There is enough content in each song individually that doing so would be interesting. Even taking what they sound like they mean and comparing what they are actually about would be interesting.
I, however, am far from the right person to do such a task.
If I had to make a generalization as to what states-of-mind the album elicits, I would have to say crushing realization combined with an acceptance of just how wrong everything can be.
SO, I TOLD MYSELF I WOULD NOT PICK GIANT. I found a really good version of Giant live. The first guitar solo is ignored by the camera operator. Epilepsy warning, though I was okay.