Wednesday, August 5, 2009

#148. 'Tell everyone I'm numb'

Unless you're Canadian or live in a place where Canadian radio can be easily heard I'm not sure you'd have ever heard of I Mother Earth in either of their incarnations. Apparently their 1995 single "One More Astronaut" cracked the mainstream rock top 20, but otherwise their popularity never made it outside of Canada for whatever reason. Up here they were a bit of an institution on rock radio, at least they were before their initial lead singer Edwin (that's right, no last name) parted ways with the band to start up a solo career. At the time, conventional thinking was that both Edwin and IME were better with each other than they were apart, and while it was pretty clearly true with Edwin from a quality if not popularity point of view, but I think a lot of people have come around to IME's second phase with singer Brian Byrne. Their final album The Quicksilver Meat Dream is often cited as their best overall, and while it's been too long since I heard the album to comment on that it did definitely house on of their best singles in "No Coma."

To look at the rough outline of the song on paper you wouldn't think it'd be anything more than simply pleasant. It's got basic post-grunge dynamics, lyrics that seem to be about alienation in the abstract and a nifty sounding if not virtuosic guitar solo, none of which would set it apart from any modern rock hit since about '97. But it stands out somehow, he chorus especially just jumps out and begs for you to pay attention to it, but not in an obnoxious way. I think it has to do with the way Byrne's vocals build up from the slightly hesitant tone of the verses to the much more expansive and drawn out vocals of the chorus so naturally. The biggest issue with Edwin-era IME in hindsight was the Edwin was a one-trick pony vocally. He was pretty much Gavin Rossdale without a British accent i nthat he could sing, but his voice was so limited that when the chorus came along, in order to match the dynamic shift he just sang louder without actually modulating his voice. Byrne's not a great vocalist by any means, but he can make the transitions between the quiet verses and loud choruses flow much more naturally.

Aside from the vocals though, what is it that made this one of my favorite modern rock tracks of the early 00s? Well, I have soft spot for that guitar solo, processed to hell as it is it just sounds so damn good, and works so well in the context of the song that I can't help but love it. The video also played a huge part in my appreciation of the song, making the mundane act of taking out the garbage seem like the climax to High Noon. The lyrics aren't high level poetry, but combined with Byrne's vocals they've got a haunting aura about them. It's one of those songs that I keep coming back to for whatever reason, so it's getting immortalized here.

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