Monday, November 16, 2009
#44. 'Nothing really mattered when you called out my name'
Guillemots "Trains to Brazil"
As we get higher and higher up both lists we get into the pieces of music that seems to be the best distillation of a specific emotion. It should be pretty obvious by now that I'm not much more than an appreciator of the technical aspects of music, I understand the mechanics and respect the work that goes into them but when it comes down to it my opinion is more linked to the feeling that whatever I'm listening to instills in me. Much as I talk about the complexity, the arrangement, the production and all those other technical aspects, if a song or an album doesn't work on a purely emotional level none of that matters one iota. As far as I'm concerned the two sides of the song enhance each other; excellence in a technical sense amplifies the emotional reaction and the emotional resonance lends a purpose to the technical aspects. When it comes to something like "Trains to Brazil" and there's a convergence of both sides that makes the most out of both the band's not inconsiderable talents it's the best kind of song; one that completely embodies a distinct feeling without shortchanging the sort of technical aspects that make or break this sort of thing.
The odd thing is that I don't usually go for stuff this unabashedly exuberant. The sense of utter elation that Fyfe Dangerfield and his cohorts coax out of "Trains to Brazil" is infectious though, everything from the opening drum pattern to that horn fanfare chorus just exudes such joy that it's impossible to not get caught up in it. It seems to exist on the edge of a certain imaginary line I draw where the infectiousness ends and a certain overbearing sense of the song actively trying, and trying too hard, to embody a particular emotion begins. It's a line I have for pretty much every common emotion evinced by songs, but the line for songs like "Trains to Brazil" is considerably easier to overstep than the others. It could just be that I'm a sad bastard at heart, but any time a song gets too invested in being happy I shut it out, and come to think of it I've ignored much less exuberant pieces than "Trains to Brazil" for the sin of trying too hard, but that's where the technical aspects become important. Without the levels of craft that the band put in to the song's every second it could get grating, but they've got a winning arrangement from the get go, complete with a maddeningly irresistible horn fanfare for a chorus that would have won me over over even if the line was crossed elsewhere.
There's also the fact that this isn't a happy song if you look at it closely. It was named in tribute to an innocent Brazilian man who was gunned down in the London subway not long after it was initially written (under the name "Life Song" if that's at all surprising) and the lyrics seems to involve coming to terms with a friend's death in the most positive way possible. It comes down to that last stanza, where Dangerfield belts out his own version of the carpe diem speech from Dead Poets Society. boiled down to four lines and shouted with the sort of enthusiasm tat few modern musicians can muster. Between that little section and the overall joviality of the arrangement the song gives of the sort of joyous energy that so much "indie rock" this decade forewent entirely, making the song stand as one of the most positive sounding underground anthems in a time where most people making this kind of music were aiming for seriousness above all else.