Tag Archives: songs

Set List For A Washed Up Rock N Roll Band

1. Open up with a deep cut from the first (successful) album. Let the crowd know that you know that your first album was totally fuckin’ awesome, even though you wrote all those songs when you were like 20 and now they’re kind of embarrassing.

2. Poorly received single that is still loved by diehard fans.

3. The 3rd best song on your 3rd album, which was a return to form for the band but an absolute critical failure that got you dropped from your major label deal.

4. Lead track off the 4th album. Not that anyone gives two shits about your creative output past the first album, but now that you’re in your 40s and married you might as well play that song you wrote that one time when you were actually sober about the woman who would later be your wife, right? Which totally won’t alienate your crowd at all, I swear.

5. Third track from the 2nd album which was a miserable failure as you tried too hard to capitalize on the success of your first album by releasing some contrived over-produced pop bullshit, but the third track still stands out as being a half-way decent effort despite how terribly Disney-fied it sounds on the record.

6. Bring it old school with an updated version of a song from your debut EP, or other slightly obscure work that pre-dates your mainstream success. Make sure you mention that “We’re gonna bring it old school right now” in the introduction to the song.

7. Drop in a live favorite, something that’s enhanced by the crowd, preferably with a sing-along or clap-along section. You know your fans love the clap.

8. Lead single from the 3rd album. Dammit, that really was a good record, looking back on it. Too bad it didn’t take off the way you wanted it to.

9. Now is a good time to play that new song you guys just wrote that no one in the audience has heard yet. They’re in a good mood, so they’re more willing to forgive the miserable ennui they’re about to experience for the next 4 minutes.

10. Ease the crowd out of their nap with either a re-worked version of an acoustic song that builds in dynamics, or a quiet version of one of your more rockin’ hits that doesn’t actually get rockin’ again until the very end. They’ll be that much more excited once the good part finally happens.

11. First track off the first successful album. This is an abusive relationship between you and your fans, and it’s time to remind them why they love you.

12. That Other Good Song From The 4th Album

13. A cover song, but not one that you’ve previously performed. Try an ironic cover of a presently popular song, or a real old school throwback to your influences’ influences that you used to lie about being influenced by but now that you’re older you actually listen to them.

14. A fan-favorite B-Side, or maybe a song that was only released on a soundtrack or something.

15. That Other Good Song From The 2nd Album

16. One more gem from the 3rd album

17. Just play the god damn single already, that’s all they wanted to hear in the first place and by now they’ve put up with enough of your narcissistic bullshit that you may as well give in.

“That”

We begin, as all things do, with building: ambient noise and the revving of a motorcycle engine, before ascending piano notes come up, repeatedly rising up the scale without ever truly resolving. Soon the feedback begins, and the heavy, distorted guitars follow in suit, guided by the steady crash of cymbals and booming snare drum snap. The lead guitar comes in wailing, spilling feedback and harmonics all across the soundscape.

And finally, nearly two minutes later, everything stops. A moment of calm, accompanied by a gentle piano, tapping out a loose and airy I-IV-V progression, as our hero makes the first of his anthemic refrains: “I would do anything for love.” And so he proceeds to describe in detail those very things that he would, to the harmonious twinkle of ivory. “But I won’t do that,” he finally concludes as the electric guitars come ripping back into the song, ringing out their reverb in steady whole notes while the snare drum sets the pace with on every 2nd and 4th beat. The louder instruments temporarily pull back as the song drops down to the relative minor, suggesting a darkness within as our hero articulates the struggles he has faced, the constant challenges he has been forced to overcome in order to do those things — any thing — for love that he claims that he would do.

But then it returns, ever so briefly, to a soft, piano-led plea, returning to a major key, before returning violently once again to the Ionian mode, battling cacophonous feedback as our hero casts aside his hardships and howls out a solemn vow against a painful diminished chord that as long as he lives, he will always make good on that aforementioned:

“I would do anything for love,” he reminds us, returning to the soft lilt of the piano, this time with a slightly more rhythmic weight behind each note and a gentle chorus of angels lifting up his voice. And each phrase is punctuated by a bombastic burst of guitars as the chorus turns around and resolves once more to his oath: “I would do anything for love — but I won’t do that” and we don’t even care what “that” is because we’re him, we believe him, we believe in him. He repeats his mantra more and more as the soft tap of the hi-hat cymbal continues picking up velocity, until the chorus of raucous returns to carry him through that declarative refrain, accompanied by the glowing harmonies of seraphim.

The phrase repeats, and repeats again, until you’ve almost had enough — when suddenly the song returns to the unresolved Ionian buildup that we heard at the beginning, only driven this time by a steady rock n roll pulse. And again, the song pulls back to a quiet accompaniment as our hero returns to the darkened thoughts of his own internal struggles. But his voice carries on, the snare drum gets louder, and louder still, each hit positing an exclamation mark upon his words. Once again we progressive through the familiar patterns of the song, heaping greater and greater upon the reverb of every word, until finally, that diminished chord returns, its dissonant vibrations sending sickening waves through our skin as the drums pull back to slow down the reveal that yes, he would do anything for love! And the chorus cries along, their rich harmonies ripping through the heavy wall of raucous sounds, bursting through the air in halftime as if thrust into a climactic slow-motion moment, a frozen frame against all odds, against the violent volume of sonic chaos shunted into some melodic order, and for just one moment, the world stops spinning and we see true love in its finest form.

As the dust clears away, our hero finds his mate, and she sings along with him, taking in his melody as if her own breathe and returns it, finding affirmation in the sound. Until finally, as the song and the world fall apart around them, he makes it abundantly clear, through all her hesitations, uncertainties and exceptions: No, I will not cheat on you for love.

And that’s the one fucking thing he won’t. He won’t fucking cheat on her love. Which is such a fucking cop-out, because of course you’re not going to cheat on someone. That’s like the basic fucking rule of being in love. You went through 12 minutes of some of the most glorious fucking operatic rock n roll music ever written — just to tell her that you wouldn’t cheat on her to make her love you? How would that even work?

I’ll take the words right out of your fucking mouth: fuck you, Meat Loaf.

I Wish I Lived In 5/4 Time

I wish I lived in
five-four time, one beat
ahead, or one behind of
marches, or a steady waltz,

where songs continue through the
halts in patterns that begin
to grow beyond the rhythms
that we’ve known while breaking

up the measured pace of
music filling oblong space with
low bass notes and treble
tones exploding through our gramophones

that settle into some new
groove and welcome a familiar
tune: Oh, I wish I
lived in five-four time.

The Ballad of Gideon Stargrave

In a city full of strangers,
or a town that’s drowned in dreams,
I’m the albatross, awaiting flight;
a soldier’s greatest scheme
before his life and pride are blown apart.
Locked on target for her heart:
His pen’s his only missile that he flies.
But he’s still stuck somewhere
between himself and I.

Oh, if I could be him
he wouldn’t have to be me.
There’s an albatross around my neck
and we both know what that means.

So he’s offering his blessing
to the boy out in the cold
because he’s given all that he can give.
He’s left with just a face,
and though the girls all swear he’s handsome,
it’s just not to his taste.
Without his arms, without a neck,
without his feet, without a heart,
he’s more than alive,
and that’s more than a start.

He gave me most of his mind.
He asked me to write,
to color his life
but a poet is lost
when his life is all right;
when the girls are in love;
when he sleeps through the night
without a sound.

Coal Town Canary

I heard
This story
About a girl
Sings in the back of a bar
And bets on the race track
Coal town, near Albuquerque

Heard the town mine is kaput
She’s gonna blow the whistle
On the whole thing
Horse race fixin’
Price fixin’
City blocks
Bought up
All
By the
Same
Person

All of it
If she don’t
Get her share

The boss slides up
To her barstool
Looks at her
Tells her it’s time
Get on stage, it’s time
Unbunch that skirt
She’s gonna be a
Good girl tonight
Gonna be a princess
Won’t have to wait
Like last time
Won’t have to wait
For her paycheck
Times are tough
You know, sweetheart
Her whole face tight
As she scans the crowd
For his toothy grin

Virginia smoothed the handprint
Off her ruffled yellow dress
And smiled
Nah, she’d be good
She just needed five in the john
Kick the dust off her boots
Then she’d be right as rain

After all, not a lot of guys
Hitch their wagon up
With used cars, you know
She was lucky
He bought the story
Misty-eyed

About to be a dad
And all, gosh
He better
Buy their ticket
Outta here

Better buy the whole
Song and dance
In case that baby
Don’t show

And outside the door
You could hear her voice
Clear as a bell
Singing back
’bout what her mama said
She said

Don’t wait for candles
To wish 

Don’t wait for rain
To clean up
Don’t wait for coal to turn
To diamonds
Don’t wait for the stars to come out at night
To shine  

69 Love Songs

I awoke to the pungent smell of sweat, come, and Febreze. It reminded me of freshly chopped sweet onions, and it burned my weary eyes all the same. In the distance, I could hear the reverberated decay of stubby, clumsy fingers sliding heavily against nickel-wound strings. I glanced the room, but it wasn’t until I saw the posters on the wall that I fully remembered what happened the night before: Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Animal House, all the classic male masturbation fantasies. And I’d fallen for the same old shit again.

I grabbed an oversized Boston University hoodie from his pile of clothes nearby, and after I was (mostly) certain it was cleaned, I pulled it on over my head. I was never one for cuddling with strangers that I had just met at the bar, but I wasn’t comfortable leaving the room in nothing but last night’s wrinkled clothes. I squeezed into my jeans and left to find the bathroom.

“I’m sorry; did I wake you up?” he asked, before I’d even step completely of the bedroom doorway. He was sitting on a worn out grey-brown couch, strumming an acoustic guitar.

“Oh, no. No, not at all,” I said, not entirely confident in my ability to lie this early in the morning.

“That’s good. I was just working on a song I’ve been writing. But I figured I should let you sleep.” Then, a carefully calculated pause, as if the idea had just suddenly come. “Hey — would you want to hear it?”

I had the feeling that even if I said “no,” he would have played it anyway, but I didn’t want to be rude.

And when you said that things were different,” he sang, “I thought that we could stay the same / but even on the darkest mornings / you know the stars still light up your name…

I immediately wished that I had been rude. But still he kept singing:

But baby, it’s a brand new world / I hope you’ll make it for me / Baby, won’t you give it a whirl? / Just let your heart go free / and stay with me…

I suddenly regretted hooking up with about 85% of the guys I met in college. Still, here I was at 27, and somehow in my inebriation, I had fallen for the same old crap. Sure — in my sobriety, if you can call the morning that, I could see it for what it was. But apparently I regressed 7 years last night.

“Hey, I should actually get going…” I interrupted, as politely as I could. “I’ve got this, umm —”

“Oh, well — can you at least stay for breakfast? It’s just about done. Do you like bacon?”

Suddenly, the morning after didn’t seem so bad.