Three chords and the truth: or this is not a rebel song in 4/4 time

In the movies people fall in love at the right time. Oh sure maybe there’s a few minor obstacles, like the stock character of the oafish boyfriend standing in the way, or the fact that the male lead has just accepted a job on the moon, but nothing that can’t be resolved by the sheer power of movie love and the power chords of a top 40 hit single soundtrack.

Oh yes, the music. Like characters in Peter and the Wolf every emotion is represented by a song, or at the very least a genre of music. On the grade 11 band trip Ryan Corbett introduced me to Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral and Pearl Jam’s Vs. I was as angry as a middle class white kid could get being stuck on a bus for a week with two girls he thought he loved, but knew didn’t love him back.

“Help me / I broke apart my insides / Help me / I’ve got no soul to sell… my whole existence is flawed / You get me closer to God.”
- Nine Inch Nails, “Closer” / The Downward Spiral


While I’ve not been Trent Reznor angry in a long while, I still enjoy listening to his snarl to remind me of a time when girls made me feel something beyond a general malaise that you associate with events that are beyond your control like world hunger, floods and the results of elections.

While NIN is the cure one could say that Van Morrison is the cause. “Brown Eyed Girl” coming on the radio or mix tape at an inopportune moment has caused me to fall in love with more brown eyed girls than is reasonable for a any song in 4/4 time. As part of a future therapy I intend to travel to Ireland and egg Van Morrison’s house, as an act of closure. Closure and retribution.

“Do you remember when / we used to sing? / Sha la la la (and on and on)”
-Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl / Some old album

Now though I suspect that Van has lost his power over me. Despite it being in the top 25 most played songs on my iPod I’ve not fallen in love for years, and not because I’ve been in some sort of backwoods Aryan colony either.

There aren’t just songs for anger and love. Lust has songs too. A friend of mine once told me that his partner liked to make out to the Nine Inch Nails song “Closer” that I mentioned earlier in the article. This seems wrong, on a whole level or reasons. Then again I’ve seen clubs full of people grinding to it so I suppose I may be off there.

The song that does it for me these days is the Billy Bragg and Wilco cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Remember the Mountain Bed”. Sure it’s not a sexual song, lacking the now prerequisite hip hop beat to be traditionally “sexy” but it’s sexy in a literate way.

“Your arm was brown against the ground, your cheeks part of the sky / As your fingers played with grassy moss, and limber you did lie / Your stomach moved beneath your shirt and your knees were in the air / Your feet played games with mountain roots as you lay thinking there”
- Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Remember the Mountain Bed” / Mermaid Avenue Volume 2

Then there is more popular fare. Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” makes me inappropriately happy. Matthew Good’s “Suburbia” is my biography and U2’s “Zooropa” (the song and the album) is perhaps the closest we’ve come to an epoch-defining document.

Now comes the part of the article where I feel the need to gain some indie cred and thus will now mention that if you don’t own a copy of the Weakerthans’ album Left and Leaving you’re well on your way to becoming a war criminal, or at the very least a member of Paul Martin’s cabinet, though if Martin has his way that will be a very fine line.

“They’re tearing up streets again / They’re building a new hotel / The mayor’s out killing kids to keep taxes down / And me and my anger sit folding a paper bird / Letting the curtains turn to beating wings / Which I had a socket set to dismantle this morning / Just one pair of clean socks and a photo of you”
- the Weakerthans, “my favorite chords” / Left and Leaving

Like a Nick Hornby character I communicate through mix tapes and burnt compact discs. In a world where sincerity is distrusted and irony is the language of the peoples it seems like a particularly noble way of speaking. Though few people can read the secret language of song arranging. Few women understand that the placement of “They’ll Need a Crane” by They Might Be Giants means it’s over, and is not simply meant as a gag. When I find a woman who can properly decipher a mix that ends with “Sweet Avenue” by Jets to Brazil followed by “Do You Realize” by the Flaming Lips, I will die happy.

“And instead of saying all of your good-byes let them know you realize that life goes fast / It’s hard to make the good things last / You realize that the sun doesn’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round”
- the Flaming Lips, “Do You Realize” / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

The Official Mix Tape / Burnt CD / iPod Playlist of the Soapbox 2004

1. Hey Ya! – Outkast

2. Perfect – Smashing Pumpkins

3. Intergalactic – the Beastie Boys

4. Common People - Pulp

5. Letter from an Occupant – New Pornographers

6. Foolish Love – Rufus Wainwright

7. Hold On – Tom Waits

8. Golden Age - Beck

9. New Test Leper (acoustic)– R.E.M.

10. There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You – Ben Folds

11. I Think I Need a New Heart — the Magnetic Fields

12. Help! – the Beatles

13. Moondance – Van Morrison

14. Remember the Mountain Bed – Billy Bragg & Wilco

15. You Were the Last High – the Dandy Warhols

16. Deeper Than Beauty – Sloan

17. Betterman – Pearl Jam

18. I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind (cover) – the Flaming Lips

19. Why Bother – Weezer

20. Acrobat – U2