Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Out of Context

I was spun into wonder today as to why it is that songs I love from albums I love sound so much cooler as singles on the radio. I think in large part it's the fact that that thing I love is being broadcasted to my fellow wanderers so that they may share in the experience that had such a notable impression on me. I like to share. *ahem*

But, I think it's also something to do with the fact that on the album the work is soaking in a sea of itself. I may thoroughly enjoy a track but the more I enjoy each of the tracks the less any of them "pop". On the radio, however, these orchestral orcas are rising out of an ocean of dirty dull dishwater. Such brilliance lusters all the more when in contrast and out of context.

Audioslave is a good example of this. On the radio they wake you up and shake you up out of drooling on yourself from another goddamned bland whine-fest from some kids wearing black nail polish. On the album, however, the songs tend to bleed together and produce a kind of burnout from overstimulation.

What set me off on this subject today, however, was hearing The Pot from Tool's new album 10,000 Days on the radio. No one can scream and still be singing as beautifully as Maynard. This song is a vicious lashing of fury. Of course what I find most awe-inspiring about Tool (and A Perfect Circle for that matter) and what leads me to start tossing around words like genius is their ability to not simply call upon but CONJURE emotions in the listener. Everything about the structure of the songs: the pace, the rhythm, the melodies, the intensity, and especially the vocals, are a thousand tiny fingers punching the critical keys in your neural receptors in just the right sequence to illicit the desired response.

What does The Pot conjure? As I said certainly a righteous fury, but also shame. This song is a scolding, and it's so masterfully constructed as to make you genuinely feel like you deserve it. And... In a way we all do. Even if we don't it does a world of good to be MINDFUL of the crimes we owe our world to. Awareness is the only medicine for the world's meta-diseases.

The album is full of indictment. Every song has a bitter or at least lamentatious angle and it's a beautiful experience. But it's also exhausting if you really go into it for the long haul. Despite the varied sounds, it remains thematically of one context. And each track is like an invigorating act of mortification that one volunteers for.

On the radio, however, it plays differently. It plays more like a scenario where some guy in a crazy cool jacket walks into your convenience store, drags you out back, and at gunpoint and under threat of execution convinces you to go back to community college.

BRISK! To say the least, this song rocks... Hard.

1 comment:

Ravious said...

I agree, and would go a step further. I love electronica music (sometimes wrongly referred to as techno - a subgenre of electronica) and frequently listent to it while studying, etc. However, they don't play many of the tunes on the radio in St. Louis (not having an electronica station like NY or LA). But, when I hear the song on a commercial...it feels like what you describe. The contents of the commercial are irrelevant...what matters is the song and that people are hearing it. In the sea of "buy this"/"need this" having one of your favorite songs played to the masses, seemingly in a transparent way, is ver' refreshing.