You're in the car, or cleaning your house, or in the shower and you're listening to that song. It's that song that makes you think "Holy shit. I wish I was in this band". All this week we will be sharing the songs that make us think the same thing.
The Weakerthans are a band that combines so many things that I love into one easy to digest package: punk rock energy, some country-rock instrumentation, hyper-literate lyrics, and a strong sense of humor. Each member of the band is capable at their instrument, but no one is a virtuoso, so this is a band I could join and not feel like I'm the weakest member, talent-wise, of the gang.
My main instrument is bass, so I would have to kick current bass player Greg Smith out of the band - sorry, Greg. The songs are simple, but have lots of room for creativity, so I would love to work up some bass lines that rely less on riding the root of the chords. Of course, maybe this is what the band wants, in which case, I'll ride away on those root notes all day long, just to be a part of the band. I'll even pretend to be Canadian if it helps (my great-grandfather was actually in the Royal Canadian Air Force, so there).
There has been a lot of press lately about The Best Show, live call-in show that for the past 13 years was based out of New Jersey's freeform station, WFMU. The show has now moved on from the terrestrial station to now being it's own island. People have come out recently to talk about what the show means to them and how host Tom Scharpling has helped them through difficult times in their life. What no one is saying is that The Best Show introduced a lot of us to one of the best new musical artists out there, Mike Krol.
Mike Krol is one of these jack-of-all-trade jerks who seems to be great at everything he does. After his career as a graphic designer he decided to give music a try and holy fuck thank god he did. Krol's music is hard to pin down. It's kind of punk, and kind of rock, and kind of all over the place but the end result is a (excuse the phrase) bombastic aural assault. For me, when I am dreaming about being in a band my main concern is: will this be fun? Sadly for Krol if I were to join this band I would probably take his role, or maybe the role of the bass player. I seriously love nothing more than a buzzing distorted bass.
Before this turns into a bunch of insufferably sobby bullshit, I’ll just say this: I identify with Scott Hutchinson’s lyrics more than I’d like to admit. Overall, I’m a fairly happy person. I look forward to getting up each morning, petting the dog, watching a movie, hanging out with friendly people.... I’d say that, in general, I’m pretty content with my day to day existence. However, beneath all of that contentment lies a steadily flowing undercurrent of self-resentment and guilt which simply never goes away. Some days I feel it more strongly than others, but it’s always there, nagging at me, whispering into my ear. This is probably why I endeavor to create art. Creating art is a release. It’s not a solution, but it is a medium by which the creator can work through problems and, perhaps, find some temporary relief. It seems that Scott Hutchinson has many of the same problems that I do, namely that he seems to believe that, though life is full of moments of astounding beauty (and rare moments of triumph), in the end he’s basically just a waste of oxygen. Therefore, I feel that if I were to write a song, and I were being honest with myself, the lyrics would read a great deal like some of Scott Hutchinson’s.
Scott has plenty of songs where he discusses the ever-present repulsion that he feels for himself (Foot Shooter, The Oil Slick, The Greys…), but the one that resonates with me the most is The Modern Leper, the first track off of Frightened Rabbit’s remarkable sophomore album The Midnight Organ Fight. The song’s lyrics speak to me throughout, but particularly a line in the chorus: “Is that you in front of me/Coming back for even more of exactly the same? You must be a masochist.” The chorus continues “... to love a modern leper on his last leg,” but I don’t identify with that part so much. I don’t view myself as a leper, not really, as people have generally been fairly kind to me and I feel that I have my place in the little rut that I’ve dug out for myself. That being said, the first three lines of the chorus really hit home. Throughout my life I’ve been filled with confusion and doubt, wondering why my friends love(d) me, why they wanted to continue to see me, what they saw in me that provided them with the fortitude to endure my presence. Clearly Hutchinson feels somewhat the same way, at least when it comes to the woman he’s addressing in the song. When I listen to Frightened Rabbit what really stops me in my tracks is how honest and raw the emotional reality of Hutchinson’s lyrics and performances feels. The fact that Hutchinson uses his songs, and his band, as a release is very clear to me, and since I believe we’re going through some of the same things his catharsis can be mine as well, which is sometimes very welcome indeed. I just hope that, someday, I can create a work which is as honest and powerful as this song.