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TGM: Orb View Drop Down
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    Posted: April 02 2013 at 10:20

Bit different to my last megacolossothreadofreviewcompilation, this one's just stream-of-consciousness looks at some lyrics I've had a think about with lazy punctuation and political spleenventing which I'm not letting myself do in the politics threads because I get too angry to articulate things and if that doesn't sound appealing I don't know what does. I'm too embarrassed about the old reviews to write new ones so I thought I'd post this in case anyone cares to read it and feels they have too much free time for the internet to waste it all without my help

A couple of quick looks at lyrics with an actual theme and everything:

Hemispheres

I was letting Spotify roam wild yesterday after a perfunctory listen to Clockwork Angels and either the last early-phase or first early-middle phase (it's entirely to Rush's credit that they have so many phases) Rush album strolled like a carelessly invited vampire into the house of my ears (the metaphor's ironic so it's ok if it's awful and banal alright now keep reading and don't pay attention to how I have replaced my previous style of cluster-adjectives with basically nothing and am just doing a long sentence with no punctuation to throw you off that). Previously, it's always been the rather daft Cygnus X-I continuation that has embarrassed me into turning the damn thing off but I'm sitting through that for the second time in two days out of some misplaced sense of fair play. (fans who want to be offended, read on: same old Apollo and Dionysos rationality-pleasure-OHLOOKBALANCEISTHEANSWER drivel, and I don't really care for the music either to be honest). This time my embarrassment was instead directed at the suspicion I might have said something overly complimentary about the lyrics of The Trees in the past. The basic gist, far as I can tell, is that the maples are the poor unionising to get equality, oaks are our lofty Randian masterlords. Now, it feels to me like the characterisation of the two is vaguely sympathetic to the problem of the maples while the selfish preciousness of the oaks (i.e. that they are somehow inherently better and more deserving of light than the maples) is sent up. You can take the botanical metaphor's comment on the deserving of wealth in two ways, depending on whether you have the (incorrect) Randian some-people-are-just-better view or the TGMOrbian basic-perspective view. My hope is that the coda is the Bastille Day thing by another vehicle, and that the oaks' refusal to make concessions is what leads to the violent revolution that follows (I'm a pretty hardline and lazily misinformed communist, so that's not really enough for me but it'll do). On the other hand, you could see this as yer bog-standard socialism's-so-restrictive-so-the-maples-should-just-shut-up response.

Now, having actually written this and thought about it, I'm much less negative than I set out planning to be but the problem still kind of remains. The Trees has a pretty clear political narrative, whether that's the Bastille Day or the 'Orwellian' sort (I'd hesitate to directly name an Orwell book, because 1984 and Animal Farm are probably the two novels most commonly deliberately misunderstood by political commentators on the right – my personal favourite being the Tory MP Roger Gale speaking apparently from a pre-prepared piece of paper but nonetheless directly through his arse defining gay marriage measures as 'Alice In Wonderland territory, Orwellian almost' with one bigoted tit muttering 'hear hear' in the background before he goes off into the same weary comparison of homosexuality and incest oh for god's sake it's too stupid to even describe...). I suppose you can chart it as the 'the oaks should be nicer or it'll be their fault when things go wrong' but the weak having rights based only on the handouts of the strong isn't really my sort of politics. If you take it the other way and say 'the maples' rebellion just crushes all growth and creativity and they should put up with it to avoid that', then you just get into your agonisingly dull Clarksonian/Littlejohnic/Hitchensite/Philippsesque Soviet Russia is what all left-wing politics will lead to blahblahblah. If you leave it somewhere in the middle, you've got what I think the main argument that prog is somehow disconnected comes from, which is not the 'irrelevance' of the subject matter but rather that when it does acknowledge problems, it doesn't really offer any engagement with them or any ideological response.


Tales From Topographic Oceans

The seminal wishy-washy prog album has the same deal more acutely, in that it's actually peppered with 1970s social comment, which is to say:

Getting over overhanging trees
Let them rape the forest
Thoughts would send our fusion
Clearly to be home

Getting over wars we do not mean
Or so it seems so clearly
Sheltered with our passion
Clearly to be home

They move fast, they tell me,
But I just can't believe they really mean to
There's someone, to tell you,
And I just can't believe our song will leave you
Skyline teacher
Warland seeker
Send out poison
Cast iron leader

has some sort of anti-military and anti-aggregation-of-power dimension contrasted with wishy washy holisticism. Political problems treated as a philosophical non-issue. I mean, part of the reason Tales is so damn unorganisable into a coherent lyrical whole is that there are these hints of meaning interspersed with clouds of fluff. I mean, it's a great album even if, despite being twice as long it's still not half as good as Close To The Edge, but 'Relayer/Sail the futile wars they suffer' and 'School gates remind us of our class/Chase all confusion away with us/Stand on hills of long forgotten yesterdays/Pass amongst your memories told returning ways' are both a bit infuriating for me at least because pointless wars and our equally pointless and the class system and its corresponding differential in access to opportunities which is now cunningly re-entrenching itself in Britain should make people angry, or disappointed or should have some sort of emotional resonance within the context of the piece. They shouldn't just be brought up and dropped instantly. Is it hippie optimism that vague philosophical opposition would simply overwhelm such vested interests given time or just lazy emotional hooks sunk in the marshmallow texture of the album's lyrics? I don't even know and this has gotten to be dead incoherent because I'm really just venting rather than making the rational point I think I was planning to about how a lot of prog connects itself to a reality it which it just ignores and this is why Dark Side of the Moon is a really good album and stream of consciousness is really not my medium PRESS ON

Anyway, engaging with political subjects and not really saying anything about them is almost as bad as engaging in incongruous disquisitions on social credit without any real prompting (that, good folks, is a damning reference to my favourite writer ever – five points for the first person to identify the reference... points are not redeemable for anything).

Next time, if a next time there is, I'm going to offer an example of some things under the threadbare umbrella of prog which do offer coherent political worldviews or statemnents. And then we might even look at some lyrics which aren't basically thinly veiled justifications for me pushing my own soft-hearted anti-democratic communist perspective down your throats but probably not.

also I remembered my password I'm so impressed with myself am I coherent I don't even care thanks if you read this far you're the best whoever you are Heart



Edited by TGM: Orb - April 03 2013 at 03:52
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Post Options Post Options   Quote LinusW Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 02 2013 at 11:25
"[...]agonisingly dull Clarksonian/Littlejohnic/Hitchensite/Philippsesque Soviet Russia is what all left-wing politics will lead to blahblahblah"

I lulz'ed. At other stuff as well. But especially that.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote HolyMoly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 02 2013 at 11:50
Very interesting points you make.  Enjoyed the read, thanks!

Wish I had time to make more specific comments, but for now, Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Quote AtomicCrimsonRush Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 02 2013 at 18:29
Hmmm your post reads like a William Faulkner book, as he is stream of consciousness and a master at that. Lyrics are essential to me and I take from them what my experience brings to them, whatever that may be and they change meaning according to my frame of mind at the time of listening.

Some great lyrics are found on:

VDGG "Pawn Hearts"
Rush: "Signals"
Yes: "Fragile"
King Crimson: "ITCOTCK"
Marillion: Misplaced Childhood
Genesis: Foxtrot
ELP: BSS

These albums in particular spring to mind for brilliant songwriting. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Knapitatet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2013 at 09:43
Neil has matured alot since then. Last time i checked he didnt even identify himself as an Objectivist anymore, but as a "Left leaning Libertarian" whatever that means. Check out the lyrics for "The Larger Bowl" for proof that Neil has distanced himself from the heavy handed right wing stuff.

It would be interesting to know what you think of the lyrics of Frank Zappa.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TGM: Orb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2013 at 19:38
Ta muchly, Linus and Moly Hug

@ ACRush:

Pawn Hearts is excellent. Signals I have not heard. Fragile is alright mostly (We Have Heaven really gets my goat, though) - I prefer Close To The Edge as Yes lyrics go... feel there's a bit more of a plan for that album than most of their stuff. In The Court Of The Crimson King is an unusual phenomenon - while Sinfield's done some good and touching stuff since, I think Court really is his best by miles. Pretty unusual for a debut. Misplaced Childhood... I always run out of interest about halfway through that album. I'm a fan of Script and whatever the one that starts with Hotel Hobbies is. Foxtrot's pretty good, though Watcher Of The Skies and Time Table are both a bit light lyrically. Peter Gabriel has been a more or less consistently good lyricist, though (except for 2/scratch/whatever it's called, which has its moments). ELP's lyrics are sort of good enough for their stuff in a tacky sci-fi way - I'd say the first album and Trilogy might have better lyrics than BSS.

I agree Peart's recent stuff is more nuanced. Listening through Clockwork Angels I sort of got the impression he was trying to make some sort of a statement and was still a bit self-contradictory in his politics of being basically a decent human being and recognising people can get a bit of a bum deal from life but having faith in the eventual value of the more or less random system we live in. Is The Lager Bowl the pantoum off Snakes and Arrows? if that's the one, it's genuinely pretty tough to write pantoums that are about something and work - was quite impressed with that. I really like the lyrics of Working Them Angels, actually. Dead good song.

Depends on the Zappa in question really. Freak Out! is pretty hilarious (and say, Trouble Every Day is a legitimately great protest song). Bits of his other stuff is rather neat (Camarillo Brillo's fun and has neat rhymes). I don't know if I've heard enough of his preposterously large catalogue to make any general statements. I kind of take issue with his dirtier stuff, though, just because it's not particularly clever, shocking or funny in its execution. I mean, I sort of get the idea that it's sort of an explicit parody of the ideas implicit in yer rock and roll and yer pop but that's not really enough for lyrics to cope with. I listen to a bit of music hall and a fairish amount of English folk comedy stuff which has innuendo down to more or less a fine art form so I just find that sort of stuff pretty underwhelming.

Another one will be coming. Was going to be sooner but then Thatcher died and I was just furious at media coverage and a dead woman for about a week and couldn't write anything without swinging off topic wildly.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Slartibartfast Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2013 at 19:45
When in doubt, go completely out....
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Slartibartfast Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 14 2013 at 19:50
An Ad Baculum Subalteration
The fallacy of revalance arguing for acceptance
containing syntactical variables.

Corresponding formally equivalent first order -
a sequence of opertions to be performed.

I could inflict more on you....


Edited by Slartibartfast - May 14 2013 at 19:50
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TGM: Orb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2013 at 06:09
Flamboyant sharks wrangle polyglots tendentiously.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Icarium Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 15 2013 at 07:44
you should take some Supertramp lyrics s under the microscope i would love that Crime until Breakfast had some coherent soryline o some interesting hidden theme between lyrics song titles and album titles and album art work. unitl reason time 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 17 2013 at 19:54
Hi,

I have never thought that the lyrics were more important than the rest of the piece, and thus, there are times, when they are filling out a part, in order to get to another part ... even opera has done this for hundreds of years, and it's nothing new to music.

My main concern is that we, at times, are overly worried about the meaning of the lyrics and forget the rest ... and to me it's like the music itself is meaningless, or you could have something else behind it, and you would still like it, which I seriously doubt!

This was an important concept in the 50's and 60's in the arts, and kinda came to a close with Burroughs and a couple of other writers, that pretty much turned the wording of things inside out ... literally! Even David Bowie talks about it and did it for several albums, and many other rock bands were not immune to it ... at all.

German bands even used some of the stuff that was used in their theater and film ... complete improvisation, taken to another level. 

English bands, just like their theater ... are about the "wwwwwwoooorrrrddddd", my take on Lawrence Olivier and Richard Burton who loved to stretch the words! And guess what a lot of their rock bands did? ... accentuate the value of the words!

French bands, and specially Ange, were all about "meaningful" words!

Italian bands, were conventional and non-conventional about their words. PFM had fun with theirs and specially in the translations! Banco is very interesting in words but very serious and literate. Le Orme, is nice and sometimes comes off like the hippie balladeer!

Something like that ... in the middle of all this for me, Rush did not show anything that was more interesting or important to me than Peter Hammill at all! 

There are two "progressive" poets and several "beat" poets, out there, and their words and expressions were way more interesting and expressive than anything that Rush ever did for my ears! They would be Peter Hammill and Roy Harper ... and the beat poets, we can start with Daevid Allen and have a litter of followers in Canterbury!

It's really hard to digest a discussion of its "full meaning", just like you do in a class discussing Charles Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities", since you can literally take any section and distort your argument backwards! 

What is weird to me, is folks here appreciating Rush quoting some Ayn Rand, and no one else appreciates the many other writers that were quoted almost verbatim, whose "meaning" might well have a bit more weight, than just public sales.

It is a good discussion, however, and yeah ... I have no issues going about it ... but it is something that many folks do not like ... and fewer still will ever read Burroughs and the stuff that was done by Laurie Anderson, or how Damo Suzuki quoted Peter Handke almost verbatim, and Ange did a very good take on Jacques Brel and Kurt Weill ... but I'm not sure that ... we consider that "meaning" ... but yes it was another time and place, and it had meaning then, and today, Rush probably would not write that at all!

The arts are important ... and they filter all around you ... and in the end, it is about how much have you learned in school, or in life! ... not just the "words".
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Post Options Post Options   Quote TGM: Orb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 17 2013 at 21:59
Originally posted by moshkito

Hi,
I have never thought that the lyrics were more important than the rest of the piece, and thus, there are times, when they are filling out a part, in order to get to another part ... even opera has done this for hundreds of years, and it's nothing new to music.
My main concern is that we, at times, are overly worried about the meaning of the lyrics and forget the rest ... and to me it's like the music itself is meaningless, or you could have something else behind it, and you would still like it, which I seriously doubt!
This was an important concept in the 50's and 60's in the arts, and kinda came to a close with Burroughs and a couple of other writers, that pretty much turned the wording of things inside out ... literally! Even David Bowie talks about it and did it for several albums, and many other rock bands were not immune to it ... at all.
German bands even used some of the stuff that was used in their theater and film ... complete improvisation, taken to another level. 
English bands, just like their theater ... are about the "wwwwwwoooorrrrddddd", my take on Lawrence Olivier and Richard Burton who loved to stretch the words! And guess what a lot of their rock bands did? ... accentuate the value of the words!
French bands, and specially Ange, were all about "meaningful" words!
Italian bands, were conventional and non-conventional about their words. PFM had fun with theirs and specially in the translations! Banco is very interesting in words but very serious and literate. Le Orme, is nice and sometimes comes off like the hippie balladeer!
Something like that ... in the middle of all this for me, Rush did not show anything that was more interesting or important to me than Peter Hammill at all! 
There are two "progressive" poets and several "beat" poets, out there, and their words and expressions were way more interesting and expressive than anything that Rush ever did for my ears! They would be Peter Hammill and Roy Harper ... and the beat poets, we can start with Daevid Allen and have a litter of followers in Canterbury!
It's really hard to digest a discussion of its "full meaning", just like you do in a class discussing Charles Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities", since you can literally take any section and distort your argument backwards! 
What is weird to me, is folks here appreciating Rush quoting some Ayn Rand, and no one else appreciates the many other writers that were quoted almost verbatim, whose "meaning" might well have a bit more weight, than just public sales.
It is a good discussion, however, and yeah ... I have no issues going about it ... but it is something that many folks do not like ... and fewer still will ever read Burroughs and the stuff that was done by Laurie Anderson, or how Damo Suzuki quoted Peter Handke almost verbatim, and Ange did a very good take on Jacques Brel and Kurt Weill ... but I'm not sure that ... we consider that "meaning" ... but yes it was another time and place, and it had meaning then, and today, Rush probably would not write that at all!
The arts are important ... and they filter all around you ... and in the end, it is about how much have you learned in school, or in life! ... not just the "words".


I think creating a hierarchy of importance in a song is a pretty misguided concept. That said, someone who listens to Jake Thackray or Roy Harper without paying attention to the lyrics is just going to be missing out as much as someone who listens to Yes and doesn't pay attention to the rhythm section, or someone listening to Jethro Tull and screening out the flute.

I'd agree that Harper and Hammill are both very fine lyricists. Of the big kids, Peter Gabriel has also been rather consistently good to great and Roger Waters had a few albums with astonishingly powerful lyricists. If you're not familiar with Peter Blegvad's lyrics for the Slapp Happy albums, some of those are very tight. I like Ange more doing their concept stuff than the Brel covers... I mean, their version of Ces Gens-La is pretty good but also kind of emotionally hollow because of where they cut it.

Well, I think Rand gets mentioned in the context of a lot of Rush's lyrics more because Peart cited it rather than because people think there's a hugely deep connection. In the same way, Burroughs tends to get cited by a lot of broadsheet music journalists who haven't read him (I've read four or so of his books; interesting style and approach but the execution could do with a few less orgies but then it wouldn't really be the same). Also, Randian is a reasonable disparaging shorthand for some political views I don't much like. By contrast, the influence of Eliot on Fish, Peter Gabriel and Peter Hammill gets noticed only now and then. Similarly, many of Bob Dylan's more ingenious rhymes are nabbed from Browning, and in the latest album he's got Whittier everywhere. Almost no-one picks up on how much a lot of Ian Anderson's stuff is informed by Roy Harper except in the context of Roy Harper reviews...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 18 2013 at 11:39
Originally posted by TGM: Orb

...
I think creating a hierarchy of importance in a song is a pretty misguided concept. That said, someone who listens to Jake Thackray or Roy Harper without paying attention to the lyrics is just going to be missing out as much as someone who listens to Yes and doesn't pay attention to the rhythm section, or someone listening to Jethro Tull and screening out the flute. ...
 
Exactly. Which is the part that hurts ... some folks will say the same thing about Topographic Oceans ... and then find a way to tell us that the music is great in KC's first album, but the lyrics aren't ... and the lyrics are what make the album as exceptional as it is (see my review!)
 
Originally posted by TGM: Orb

...
I like Ange more doing their concept stuff than the Brel covers... I mean, their version of Ces Gens-La is pretty good but also kind of emotionally hollow because of where they cut it.
...
 
The covers are no big deal ... it's the emotional and lyrical content, that is obviously quite far and away from Brel, and is the part of Ange I like the most. And my favorite goes with the Pink Floyd cover on Meddle ... in the middle part ... "ecoute ... ecoute ... " and if that is not a hint, I don't know what it!
 
Originally posted by TGM: Orb

...
Burroughs tends to get cited by a lot of broadsheet music journalists who haven't read him (I've read four or so of his books; interesting style and approach but the execution could do with a few less orgies but then it wouldn't really be the same).
...
 
Not always ... the stuff used by Laurie Anderson is a bit less so, but still Burroughs. What is left for us to learn and understand is his connection to Syd Barrett, Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt and Daevid Allen, when they were all in the same house ... and all of them were a part of "Tonite We All Love in London", though Burroughs might not have participated or was already gone by then ... he was the most famous person in that midst, so him having to leave was not a surprise.
 
Originally posted by TGM: Orb

...
Almost no-one picks up on how much a lot of Ian Anderson's stuff is informed by Roy Harper except in the context of Roy Harper reviews...
 
Totally! It's just amazing that most of us progressive folks don't have the patience to listen to Roy ... his middle period is still on my play lists ... Headquarters, Unknown Hero, One of these days in England and Jugula +4.
 
And his moods and attitudes are so well defined, and the reason why I like it ... just like Peter Hammill. It has less to do with the music, than anything else.
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

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