Almost Perfectly Sane Welcome to the return of Song for Odin, that thing where I post a song and type about it. On Wednesday. So here's me doing "Fucked Up on Life" in a bar in Aachen, Germany, of all places, 2012. (This was on that "art tour" I did with Kepi and Stefan Tijs, about which I've written quite a bit: see links below if you're interested.) https://youtu.be/xi8UOjWfgAg And, warning: this gets down in some weeds, so if weeds aren't your bag you might want to skim or skip. So, on the subject of songwriting, I've been known to say things like: a song is only as good as its conceit. But that's a bit of an exaggeration. What I'm really getting at there is that a song with a strong conceit is broadly speaking probably going to be miles better than a song without one (and there are many such.) And just to be clear what I mean there, a "conceit" is a conceptual plan embodied in some musical or rhetorical idea. It establishes the rules and boundaries for the little song universe you're going to inhabit for the two to three minutes of the song's duration. Ideally (though not necessarily always) it is established by the title, and forms a sort of structure on which you kind of "hang" and develop the other elements of the song. You want this development to explore and sustain the conceit and to demonstrate its validity to an audience of skeptics. If you do it well, by the end, you've taken the listener somewhere beyond the bare expression of the idea, and you've proven it was an idea worth belaboring. Even better if the conceit is unusual or arresting enough that it hasn't been done that way before. Even better if you combine several conceits that relate to and develop each other. It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated. It can be simple. It can be dumb. The best complex ones are deceptively smudged up so you don't necessarily see all the planning and substructure. Chances are, a lot of your favorite songs are like this to some degree. And chances are, if there are songs of mine that you particularly like, they're the "conceit songs" rather than the "throw the lyrics against the wall and see what sticks" ones. When you set such rhetorical parameters, you force yourself to remain more or less in focus, which is for most people the most challenging thing about writing songs. (Though some people are just natural at it, and I have always envied them.) I learned this the hard way, by trial and error. Some plan is better than no plan. Meandering and free-associating can result in great things, but not reliably unless you're more of a poetic genius than most of us are, and even then, your naturally devastating genius is going to work better with at least some semblance of a plan. So yeah, strong conceit, that's great. But it doesn't even need to be all that strong. And in the present case, I have to say, it ain't all that much. It's rather weak and pedestrian in fact, the play on "high on life". Fucked-up on life. Get it? I'm almost embarrassed that I resorted to it. But it's still one of my best songs, because the development of the pedestrian idea worked out so well, and covers so much ground coherently, yet in what seems like the conversational voice of a real person, despite a great many clever/contrived lyrical fancies. My liking it takes me by surprise. It is way better than it should be. (Or so I like to think. If you like the song, I flatter myself to think that that's probably why you like it, too.) Things I like about it: the extra beats in some of the verse first lines, bearing out the off-kilter, emotionally muddled mood, carrying through to an inarticulate end that still manages to comment on itself; all those "writer-y" lines that sound natural only because the setting allows them to come off that way; and the grandiosity and sort of, exuberance of the arrangement which serves as an ironic backdrop for the theme of socially ostracized melancholy, unambivalently accepted and desired. That's the part that still makes me smile. Because I'm a weirdo. I actually planned to say a bit more about this song and the recording we made of it, but that's enough typing for now. Maybe we'll pick it up on some Wodnesdæg to come. In the meantime, you might as well be good to each other, because you're all we've got. notes: -- studio recording: https://youtu.be/0uio4FXP53E -- playlists of songs posted from shows on this tour so far (including SfO write-up links in the videos' descriptions): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLommF46BbnASGNjnX-Gi7NeUE5zARjmaI https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLommF46BbnARJQr18d4rFEYhxHlDB6nU3 -- another write-up of a song from this tour: https://www.minds.com/newsfeed/1023625720721571840?referrer=frankportman -- 2012 Art Tour flier: https://www.minds.com/newsfeed/1023613083791130624?referrer=frankportman -- Songs for Odin playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLommF46BbnATopffORs0YkspebJHka2o_ #music #songs #video #punkrock #minds
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