An Imperfect Mirror (Also, Some Of My Favourite Lyrics)


An Imperfect Mirror

As a songwriter, or someone who studies the use of language to shape or share emotion, there’s always something that inspires. Often enough, it’s something written by someone else as it is an emotion, a song, a movie, an occurrence. And as a songwriter, I believe that being inspired by someone else’s writing is okay. Because we’re an imperfect mirror. Our perception in the mirror isn’t borne out by what we actually look like, so therefore our copy of something isn’t an accurate reflection. Having said that, flat out theft of another person’s lyrics isn’t cool. At all. And particularly now in the age of information, directly stealing someone else’s work is a pretty dumb thing to do, leaving aside any comment on artistic purity, creativity, or lack thereof.

But being inspired by…

Well, that’s where the imperfect mirror comes in. Particularly if you’re drawing that inspiration from many disparate sources. What I’m going to share here is lyrics from songs that have burrowed there way right into my soul, for whatever reason. Some of them, just because I liked the language or turn of phrase. Some because I heard them at a time in my life where I related to them, in a way that I may not have at a different time. And some because they felt like a soundtrack that fitted exactly to a particular moment or emotion from any time in my life.

In no order of importance or relevance, here’s a few of them.

‘I poured my heart out. It evaporated… See?’

Ben Folds Five ‘Evaporated’ from ‘Whatever And Ever, Amen’

I was ‘the other guy’. No, I DIDN’T know when we started out. And when I found out, I felt pretty stupid. And betrayed, and disappointed. And when I confronted her, there was tears and apologies, and promises made. And then, about a week after, coldness. Like I was the one who’d done something untrustworthy. After I’d made my peace with her, and started towards forgiveness. But that’s not how it works. There’s another line in that song,

‘It seems that all men wanna get in a car, and go, anywhere’.

I drove a lot, back then. Just for. Fast, and recklessly. To be honest, it was more luck than skill that puts me here, right now, with some of the stupid things I did in anger behind the wheel. Driving fast, going nowhere.

‘Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us, You me and all that stuff we’re so scared of, Gotta ride down baby, down into that tunnel of love’

Bruce Springsteen ‘Tunnel Of Love’ from ‘Tunnel Of Love’

Bruce is using the imagery of a carnival ride called the Tunnel Of Love, where he describes what some people might call baggage, some call the other passenger. Whatever you call it, to me, it means uncertainty, or fear. Fear of loss, fear of the unknown, and the way only to find out what it is, or get to the end of the story, is to take the ride. Scary. And relatable. On many occasions. I’m not really a fan of Bruce as a singer, or into his songs per se, but the lyrics? Hell yeah! Another favourite of mine is ‘Stolen Car’. That song was on the soundtrack for Cop Land, the movie where Sy Stallone proved he could act, at least that one time. There’s a scene where his character puts that record on, and lies down on the couch and listens to it. He’s so depressed, beat down, and it’s undeserved. And that song suits that whole scene perfectly.

‘No boy, don’t speak now, you just drive, drive, drive take me home’ Bic Runga ‘Drive’ from the album ‘Drive’

One time I met a girl. It was so unexpected, it was immediate, the attraction was absolutely apparent to everyone around us. From that second, it was just waiting. Delaying. Until we both couldn’t wait. I was driving, not fast, just driving. I started to say something, and she just put her hand on my cheek and said ‘You don’t need to say anything, you’re going to have me, I’m going to have you, you just drive’. And smiled. Then leaned into me and gave me a kiss that was full of promise. That promise was delivered upon, and then some. Whatever else happened after that, doesn’t matter. I have that moment, and that line to remind me. The rest of the song doesn’t really relate to my situation, but that line does. The whole song relates for other reasons, but those reasons are just for me.

‘Rock me Amadeus, Amadeus, oh-oh-oh-oh oh-oh Amadeus!’ Falco ‘Rock Me Amadeus’

Not really. Just fuckin’ with you. It’s my blog, and I’ll write what I want to. 😉

‘I’ll take a quiet life, a handshake, some carbon monoxide, with no alarms and no surprises’

Radiohead ‘No Surprises’ from Ok Computer

The first time I heard this I was lying on the floor with my head on a cushion, just pressed play on the CD, and let it roll. I was half asleep by the time I got to this, but the intro chords woke me up. The way the song starts it sounds all Beatles like, and has a quirky prettiness. And then I had a closer listen, got up and checked the lyric sheet. Oh. Well, I love how Thom juxtaposes bleak lyrics over what is a melody crying out for something happier. But maybe that’s the point? I’ve never had the urge to have fun times with poisonous gases, but I’ll take that large spoonful of bitter over the top of that base of sweet.

‘Come visit me tonight at eight o’clock, and then you’ll see, how I am not the crazy one. Voices tell me I’m the shit’

Eels  ‘My Descent Into Madness’ from ‘Electro-Shock Blues’

Ummm…. I like this as much for the song, as much for it’s autobiographical nature, and the obvious. The whole ‘I ain’t crazy, my voices tell me I’m fucking awesome’ thing especially. Actually, I like that whole album, ‘Electro-Shock Blues’. Although it can be hard going emotionally if you really get down into the depth of it. Best avoided when there’s a toaster in close proximity to the bath.

‘I’m making some plans, Finding out there’s always new demands. And I can’t be precise; When people ask me what I’m doing with my life, I say, “It’s up in the air’

Kevin Renick ‘Up In The Air’

I first heard this song in the movie Up In The Air. I really liked that movie, loved this song more. For the words, the uncertainty, the procrastination, and the not giving a fuck about it. And for the chords, the lo-fi production,  and his vocal delivery. It’s not perfect, but neither is life and the situations we find ourselves in. If nothing else, it’s honest. And I’ll take honest over auto-tune and syrupy homogenised cliched blandness everytime.

‘Fun times in Babylon

That’s what I’m counting on

Before the dam goes up at the foot of the sea

Before the new wing of the prison ribbon ceremony

Before the star of the morning comes looking for me

I would like to abuse my lungs

Smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved

Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee-deep in blood

Look out Hollywood, here I come

Fun times in Babylon

Momma they’ve just begun

Before they put me to work in a government camp

Before they do my face up like a corpse and say get up and dance

Before the beast comes looking for last year’s rent

I would like to abuse my lungs

Smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved

Ride around my wreckage on a horse knee-deep in mud

Look out Hollywood, here I come

Look out Hollywood, here I come

Look out Hollywood, here I come’

Father John Misty ‘Fun Times In Babylon’ from Fear Fun

I needed a new soundtrack for dark times, and I got it just when I needed it. I love the imagery, I love the ‘star of the morning’ reference, I love the song for it’s chords, clever arrangement, melody, vocal harmonies. Actually, easiest to just say, for everything. I could dissect the whole song as a separate article, but meh. This’ll do. I like all the Fleet Foxes stuff I’ve heard, too. In particular, ‘Mykonos’ from the ‘Sun Giant’ EP and ‘Quiet Houses’ from the Fleet Foxes self-titled album.

‘See the devil may do as the devil may care

He loves none sweeter as sweeter the dare

Her mouth the mischief he doth seek

Her heart the captive of which he speaks’

Smashing Pumpkins ‘Cupid De Locke’ from ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness : Dusk Til Dawn’

Mellon Collie has 28 songs on it, and they’re all good. Some are great, actually, a lot of them are great. In this case, there’s a very good reason why this album was huge when it was released. I just like the poetry to this song, with the religious undertones, and talk of love as a grand achievement. The slightly country feel and the harp chords and arpeggios, along with backwards guitar parts, really float my boat too.

‘I been drifting along, in the same stale shoes Loose ends tying a noose, in the back of my mind’

Beck ‘Jack-Ass’ from Odelay

I like the first line, as at the time I felt like I was in a rut, and couldn’t see my way out of it. And it felt like the the things I’d left undone and didn’t want to face were coming back to bite me. And bite hard. That’s what the idea of loose ends tying a noose means to me. Also, the song itself manages to tie a bridge between alt country and lo-fi hip-hop. Interesting, to say the least.

‘It wears me out, it wears me out

It wears me out, it wears me out

If I could be, who you wanted

If I could be, who you wanted

All the time…’

Radiohead ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ from The Bends

Well. That verse has been a catchphrase in my head on more than a few occasions, for different reasons. Some a fervent desire, some a plaintive cry out, and some just wishful thinking that was ultimately denied. It’s easy to get down when something you wish for doesn’t come to pass, but I have learnt that sometimes you really didn’t want it to come true, with the benefit of hindsight. But that’s hard to see when you’re swimming furiously, to keep water from your lungs, when you’re drawing breathe to stay afloat, rather than calm yourself. More so than the other songs here, it’s Thom’s vocal delivery that grants the real power to these lyrics, not that they don’t have their own emotional gravity as is. It’s just the tone and timbre as he sings that give that connection more depth.

And that’s just a few. There’s many. Too many to list. And some, well, they just mean things to me. And I’ll keep them just for me. But every one of these songs has inspired me to write something myself, based on how they made me feel. Some of those songs I kept, some I disregarded, and some I lost. That’s the way of things. Who knows if I’ve lost some irreplaceable magic along the way? I don’t. I hope not. Anyway, that imperfect mirror and my own take on what I read and how I process it, give me my own voice and style. One day I hope that I’ll have someone looking in to what I create and share, and have their version to read myself.

One last thing. You can see further when you stand on the shoulders of giants. Meaning, if you’re going to borrow inspiration, borrow from the best, not the least mediocre you can find. Please? You’ll be doing good things for the art-form, rather than diminishing it.

That’s a responsibility I take seriously.

peacelovengoodhappinesstuff to you all.

Brendan AKA B-Dub