Waking Ear

We have a pact, you and I. I write down what song I had in my head when I woke up in the morning. And, maybe, why. You click on "What's in your waking ear?" and tell me what's in your head right now. We discover new music and maybe learn something about how our minds work. Yeah?

Friday, February 28, 2003

Damien Jurado and Gathered In Song/"Dancing" -- I Break Chairs is just all-around pretty good. It peaks early with the Bob Mould-esque "Paperwings" and "Dancing," a drunk, stomping, brooding ballad. The rest kind of bleeds together for me. Jurado's influences are the usual suspects -- Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, etc. -- and they all blend into a mass of alt-rock guitar feedback. He's a good lyricist, and I could see being 18 or 19 and playing this album on rainy nights and feeling a lot. But now I just want to shelve it and hear something more challenging.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Waking Ear has had a rush of visits to the site from people searching for the lyrics to the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," presumably because of this entry.

Well, I don't have an official copy of the lyrics, but I thought that, as a service to my guests, I'd provide my transcript, drafted over my lunch break. It's the best I can do, and I welcome corrections. But hopefully it'll help.

And those of you visiting for the first time -- hope you like the site. If you do, make a comment. Please.

Back to regular Ear postings tomorrow.

"Seven Nation Army"

I'm gonna fight 'em off
A seven nation army couldn't hold me back
They gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back
And I'm talking to myself at night because I can't forget
Back and forth through my mind behind a cigarette
And a message coming from my eyes says leave it alone

Don't want to hear about it
Every single one's got a story to tell
Everyone knows about it
From the queen of England to the hounds of hell
And if I catch you coming back my way I'm going to sell it to you
And that ain't what you want to hear but that's what I'll do
And a feeling coming from my bones says find a home

I'm goin' to Wichita
Far from this opera forevermore
I'm gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I'm bleeding and I'm bleeding and I'm bleeding right before my lord
Oh, the words are going to bleed from me and I will think no more
And the stains coming from my blood tell me go back home

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Elvis Presley/"Don't Be Cruel" -- We have very few pure vocalists left, people who don't necessarily write their own songs, but whose knack or talent lies in interpreting the songs of others. Sure, we have Britneys and Faith Hills and such, but they're not talented. Britney has a crappy voice and Faith has a generic one. I'm talking an all-out singer who can take a song and make it something that can't be duplicated.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Interpol/"The New" -- Busy day. Quick note. This was the first song of Interpol's encore last night in Dallas. Blissful. We ran into guitarist Daniel Kessler at our bar after the show. We yelled at him to stop following us. He came over and shook all of our hands and thanked us for coming to the show. Really genuine and nice.

Next month, if all goes well, Schmubb and I will be hosting the French Kicks during their visit to D-Town. I'm so excited, I'm dropping names right and left!

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Sisqo/"Thong Song" -- I apologize. But it was really did jump into my head this morning. And I do love this fact: Sisqo is singing about a type of underwear and how women look in it, but if you didn't know English, you'd swear he was singing about Jesus.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

The White Stripes/"Seven Nation Army" -- The opening track from Elephant is probably the best thing our color-coordinated heroes have ever done, and it's not just because of the bass. Jack White is challenging himself vocally and comes up with a complicated but catchy melody. Meg pounds away at that bass drum with robotic efficiency. I'm actually becoming convinced that Meg is actually a robot.

Oh, yeah, and the bass is good and is used effectively. It doesn't change the Stripes' sound or their swagger significantly because, really, Jack White has been using his guitar for rhythm for a long-time, repeating a riff over and over like a hip-hop sample. The bass and guitar on "Seven Nation Army" sing in harmony, and when the guitar departs to wail and moan, it always stays close by.

Throw in some tempo changes and some ambitiously witty lyrics, and you've got yourself an epic.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

50 Cent/"Wanksta" -- I'm with Inskeep on this one -- I, too, have mixed emotions about 50 Cent. A lot of this stuff sounds very Master P to me, and I don't mean that as a compliment. I'm also a little confused about why he was supposedly Eminem's favorite rapper. His flow and lyrical sharpness don't even begin to match Em's, and I'm beginning to think that Mr. Mathers is not a very good judge of talent. Remember D-12? Of course you don't.

On the other hand, 50's radio hits, "Wanksta" and "In da Club," are catchy -- especially the little computer beeps in "Wanksta." But I can't figure out if I'm really starting to like these songs or just having them drilled into my head by Clear Channel.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Fugees/"Cowboys" -- The Girlfriend and I popped The Score in the CD player the other night. It amazes me how well it has aged since its debut in 1996. Wyclef's rant and L-Boogie's flow still sound smart and street. (Pras still sounds so-so, but doesn't get in the way.) The samples are still eclectic and exotic. The lyrics still have wit and flair, except for Pras' constant need to inform us that "I autograph my lyrics with a No. 2 pencil." Dig out your copy and play it for old time's sake.

My favorite lyric in "Cowboys": "Fuck the sheriff, I shot John Wayne." That's bad.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Dr. Dre/"Xxplosive" -- I first heard Nate Dogg in Warren G's "Regulate" and didn't think much of him. But over time, it's become apparent that a gangsta rap party song -- the kind that makes you want to throw your hands up at six in the morning -- must, by law, include Nate. He sings of many fine things, such as smoking bomb-ass sticky. He avoids commitment with women. And he likes to kick it with his homies, singing in his monotone style while they take turns rhyming. He's a scalawag.

Now I have such affection for the man that I smile whenever I hear his voice. I leave you for the weekend with Nate Dogg's words of wisdom from Dre's "Xxplosive."

"All my real Doggs still kick it wit me
All my down hos still trickin wit me
All the true gangstas know
Nate ain't never love no ho
All the hoodrats still shake it for me
All my true fans still checkin for me
All the real smokers know
They ain't passin nuttin but dope indeed...
Real trees...
Chronic leaves...
No seeds...

When I met you last night, baby
Before - I blew yo' mind, (blew-blew-blew your mind)
I thought we had a chance, lady
No more - now that I'm sober you ain't that fine
Don't wanna treat you wrong
Don't wanna lead you on
Here baby, hit the bong
while the west coast rolls along
While we - still makin gangsta hits
You'll be - still jockin gangsta dicks
Damn girl you think you slick
Somebody better get this biiitch, this biiiitch"

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Helium/"XXX" -- My mischievous little iTunes, set on random, picked this one for me this morning. Every time I hear it, I think of the video, with Mary Timony doing that droopy, shit-faced guitar solo by pulling on the loosened strings of her guitar. I would've done anything for her.

I discovered Helium and a bunch of other bands through MTV's 120 Minutes, which I would record and then transfer my favorite songs onto audiocassette. There wasn't any good radio in North Alabama. MTV was the only thing that gave me something different. I didn't really know anybody else that had good taste, besides this one kid who went to our school for like six months and managed to introduce me to the Pixies. Now that MTV's a watered-down mess, I'm glad the kids today have the Web. Otherwise, I'm not sure how they would survive high school.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Beck/"The Golden Age" -- It must just be me. How could 139 critics be wrong?

I still don't like Sea Change. I find it overproduced and lazy. I'll be quite happy to return to Beck's loving arms when the guy feels excited about making music again. "The Golden Age," with its particularly mopey, sighing vocals, is probably an exception. I like the pseudo-Asian aura of the tune and I get a kick out of the crooning harmony. It makes me think of Beck sitting on a curb in a cul-de-sac, pulling grass out of the ground and thinking about girls. But an entire album of that? You can have it.

By the way, if you found Pazz & Jop 2002 predictable, you could do worse with Metacritic's composite best-of list. It's still pretty unsurprising, but the choices are better.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Johnny Cash/"I See A Darkness" -- I know, I know, another Will Oldham song. But it's not an Oldham song anymore. Neither is Trent Reznor's "Hurt," as Paul and others have noted.

"I See A Darkness" has sinister, low piano chords, Cash's wavering old baritone and Oldham's "devil's-gonna-get-me" twang on harmony. It's a song about a man who wants to be good, but he's scared of something inside himself. It isn't self-hatred yet. It's self-fear, and that makes it more mysterious and dangerous. Anyone who has dealt with or is close to someone who has dealt with addiction or mental illness knows this feeling. Everything is utterly unpredictable because that innate human drive for survival is missing. Nothing is certain, and as Cash's voice raises to fight his urges, to "stop our whoring," and the piano swells darkly, it's obvious he's sinking, losing control.

Read the Rolling Stone story I linked above. "Drug abuse, Cash says wearily, 'runs through this family like a turkey through the corn. Man, it's terrible. We're just trying to save him, trying to snatch him up before he goes.' " Now watch that "Hurt" video. This isn't exploitive. This is a man trying to tell us something.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Bonnie "Prince" Billy/"Maundering" -- Looking back over the past few weeks' entries, I've discovered that I have been fostering a craving for melody. I've wanted songs that string notes together in a way no one has ever strung the notes together before (if that's possible -- at least, not in a way I've heard before). I want the songwriter to zig when I thought he or she would zag, to musically surprise me. That's what I like about Will Oldham's new record, Master and Everyone. Every melody feels intricate and painstakingly prepared, months in the making, with pencil and eraser. "Maundering," one of my favorite cuts from the record, has that kind of melody, plus the good/evil motif Oldham likes to play with. And it taught me a new vocabulary word.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Journey/"Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" -- This is the one that goes, "Someday, love will find you," etc., etc. And it will. I promise. And with that, I send you to your weekend.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Smashing Pumpkins/"Quiet" -- This was the second track off of Siamese Dream, for those of you who, like myself, haven't kept up with song titles since the advent of the compact disc. When I first obtained this album by copying it from a friend, not knowing that I was a music pirate far ahead of my time, I loved the way it backed up exactly what "Cherub Rock" had promised -- Billy Corgan's guitar flair reined in by the mighty fist of Butch Vig. Corgan is best when he has boundaries, and Vig makes sure he never loses focus. The guitar melodies in Siamese Dream -- however produced and processed and pedaled they sound -- are almost always the focus, while Corgan's histrionics are just colorful flavoring.

Contrast that with Mellon Collie and that horrible rat in a cage song, "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," where Corgan gets this wrath-of-God thing going and consumes every hook in his path. He's a scenery-chewer, and that's why the Zwan album doesn't work. The melodies are back, but Corgan's still hogging the spotlight, drowning out his new bandmates in the mix and belting out peppy lyrics to unconvincingly demonstrate that, yes, he's much happier now. Corgan can still write a song, but he needs to let the song -- not his ego -- speak for itself.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Madness/"One Step Beyond" -- I've had to spend some hellacious amounts of money for car repairs lately. I dreamt last night that a lady at the car place wanted me to spend another $1,200 to get stuff fixed. I balked, and she said, "OK, OK, we'll find another way." Then she went over to another customer, a gray, wrinkly lady whom I immediately recognized as Katharine Hepburn. Somehow, she convinced Hepburn to pay $1,200, bilking her out of the money so that I could get my repairs for free. I was outraged, saying I would not prey upon this poor old celebrity. Then I woke up, and the rockingest, rock-steady beat of "One Step Beyond" was ringing in my head.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Cat Power/"Fool" -- I love an album like this, when a different song jumps out at me upon every listen. This morning it was "Fool," with its old-world violin careening through Chan Marshall's layered vocals. Marshall overdubs herself all over this record, creating harmonies with her own voice that make You Are Free sound ghostly in some places and fresh and sharp in others.

The middle portion of the record, featuring "Fool," "He War" and the riveting "Smashing Paper," is the strongest, giving us full bursts of the fight Marshall has in her. The trio of songs is so dramatically different from what we've heard before from Cat Power -- so aggressive, upbeat and catchy -- that it's disappointing to go back to the morose lullabies that occupy the last six tracks of the album. These latter tracks get better with age, too, but it's evident that Marshall has raised the bar for herself and should aim higher. I want more of the snarls and growls of "He War." I want more of Marshall battling and succumbing to that big, scary drumbeat in "Smashing Paper."

The next record -- don't make us wait three more years, Chan -- could be spectacular. And that makes the disappointments on You Are Free much more forgivable. This is an "artist in transition" record, and I'd much rather have that than an "artist running in place" record.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Pixies/"Hey" -- My friend Matt L. embraced this song and made it his own. He used to do this little dance to it. It became known as the Matt Dance. He would kind of move his shoulders in alternating circles in a staccato, stop-and-start motion. His elbows would be bent at right angles and he would keep his palms and fingers straight, like a robot. It was basically a robot dance, but not like a breakdancing robot dance. Not that sharp and angular. It was like a really easygoing, cool robot dance.


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