Friday, November 20, 2009
#41. 'We take more drugs than a touring funk band'
McLusky "To Hell With Good Intentions"
The one thing about McLusky that I - purposely - left out of my Do Dallas review is how splendidly they walk the line between smart and stupid. Sure a lot of their songs are just big dumb fun but on multiple occasions, not the least of which is "To Hell With Good Intentions," there's a sense that they're actually making a point underneath all the humour and raucousness. At first they all sound like a series of non sequiturs whose only focus is to make the listener chuckle and shout along, but there's definitely a higher degree of actual intelligence behind most of the better songs that the Welsh trio made than they'll ever get credit for. Just as an example "Collagen Rock" reads like the most concise takedown of throne-pretenders in the indie world ever written but all people are gonna remember it for is that riff and the way Andy Falkous relishes in screaming 'fake tits, YEAH!' at the end of each verse. That's the problem in a nutshell, the intelligence and meaning get so obscured by the humour and delivery that few people even think to realize its there.
"To Hell With Good Intentions" isn't quite as vicious as "Collagen Rock," but it's still one of the most under rated songs lyrically of the decade. Sure, everyone will quote it and praise the funny side of it (SING IT!) but once you look at the words in isolation they become a lot more mocking and disdainful than simply hilarious. It's rampant self-aggrandizement on one level, turning the old playground taunt of 'my big brother can beat up your big brother' into a vehicle for all manner of pointless bragging, but the part that few people catch is how the chorus undercuts the whole endeavor. Think about the song and the first thing that comes to mind is one of the verse parts, probably 'my band is better than your band/we've got more songs than a song convention' because that's a fucking awesome line. The chorus is bone simple, seven words over a suddenly chaotic bass line and double-speed power chords that makes everything that Falkous boasts about in the verses utterly meaningless: 'And we're all going straight to hell.' In short, all that shit you're talking about how great you are means nothing in the end because no one gets out of the grind any better than any one else. We're all going to the same place, and that place is fucking awful. It's the ultimate retort in the face of such rampant egotism ("Hey, I just got that promotion you were gunning for!" "Great, be sure to remind me of that when we're both stuck in the seventh circle..."), and it makes the song better because it's now so much more than a collection of funny one-liners.
It may seem odd to go on this sort of a track after I just spent nearly 800 words defending a pair of albums that resist analysis on all levels with a song that sounds like the common ground those two albums share, but the subtext ain't the only reason "To Hell With Good Intentions" got to be the McLusky representative on this side of the endeavor. It's still in the chorus though, or more specifically the shift into overdrive that the band makes as it hits. The song's main riffs for either instrument are pretty languid all told, but the minute Falkous busts out that final 'SING IT!' and the music gets utterly manic, with each member of the trio seeming to double the speed they were playing at to create a perfect little maelstrom. Joe Chapelle's bass line goes from a shallow pulse to an octave jumping jackhammer, Falkous' guitar part reaches frenetic heights that few of his peers could match and drummer Matt Harding anchors the whole transition with some of the tightest playing you;ll find on the whole album. It's the sort of transition that should sound a lot more jarring than it is in practice, and Chapelle's bass line, as simple as it is, gives it an oddly melodic undertone that stops it from sounding like a soup of frantically picked chords - though with Albini at the mixing board that wasn't ever in danger of happening it's nice to know there's a bit of a safety net in place in case he had an off day.