Saturday, August 29, 2009

#124. 'Drowning deep inside your sound'

Of a Revolution "Love and Memories"

I think a big part of what caused my shield against popular music to lower was working in retail for a few years. The first of these postings at least offered us some choice as far as what we got piped in to the store through a (very heavily restricted) satellite radio reciever, but for the most part it was stuck on the 'hits of today!' station so as to appease the majority of the staff. Initially I found this to be the equivalent of torture. Sure, in the back room where I worked most of the time I could hook up my laptop and/or stereo and play what I wanted so long as it wasn't offensive or too loud, but when I had to spend a few hours on the sales floor the constant barrage of what I considered at that time the lowest form of music was too much to take. For some reason I can't tune it out, probably a result of spending as much time as humanly possible absorbing music outside of school and work makes that the one thing I focus in on in a new environment, so the time I spent on the floor was akin to a trek into the circles of hell for my ears.

I don't know when it first occurred to me that I shouldn't spend so much energy thinking of new ways to hate every single song I heard, but once I started to parse out the goodness contained within the sea of mediocrity that was pop radio in 2006-7 it got a lot less torturous at work. Sure I still cringed inwardly at every Nickelback or Black Eyed Peas song that got piped into the store but more and more wheat was rising out of the chaff with each day. The one good thing that I can say about piped in store radio is that without bumpers identifying what each song was I was much less likely to prejudge them based on the artist. Some of the newer songs were easily identifiable, but there were some that I would incorrectly identify in my head until I remembered enough of the lyrics to google away and determine who it was I was listening to. This led to me thinking that "Love and Memories" was either a better than usual Dave Matthews Band song or a higher end Matchbox 20 song for a few months before I determined it was neither. I knew it couldn't be either in the back of my head, the vocals were too clearly enunciated to be the former and lacked the light southern drawl of the latter, but musically it fell right into the same wheelhouse as those two, especially the latter.

It's easy to write off Matchbox 20 and their brethren as your parent's music because...well it is. It's alternative rock that's been thoroughly defanged, sapped of a lot of energy and generally made bland, but as with any genre it's got it's highs and it's lows. "Love and Memories" immediately stood out because it wasn't wholly devoid of energy. Like "Move Along" a few entires back, this is one of those songs where the opening guitar figure works as a bit of an energizing trigger. Once that clean arpeggio kicks in after a couple of bars of slightly off-voice chords I'm a bit more awake and likely to get shit done than I was a few seconds before,and every time it resurfaces in the chorus it does it again. It's such a simple riff too, but the way that it comes in with those pounding, insistent drums just works as a slight adrenaline boost for me.

The drums also offer the song a further leg up on its genre-mates by giving the song a sense of purpose (probably not the right word, but it's close.) The vast majority of what's probably described as adult alternative has the hurdle of being complacent by nature. Even though on a level of pure construction a lot of them are very good, the whole of them is just kinda...there. They exist, but they don't do anything. They have the illusion of progress, but they don't really move in any way. "Love and Memories" may still just have the illusion of movement, but it's pulled off a lot better than others of its type. Something about the verse-chorus transitions makes the whole song feel like it has a final destination that it's moving towards, and even if that isn't real it's convincing enough.

Coming up tomorrow: Meta-pop arrives, finally.

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