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The Crate: Volume 3 ~ The Art of Music

After a little more of a delay than I’d have liked, I’m back with the third volume of The Crate. Thanks to all the contributors for being patient with me given responses were submitted inside the due date, so I know we’ve all been waiting to see the responses so here goes…

This time I’ll link in some of the artistry side of your favourite music, both lyrically, live and on cover art!   Bringing their crates to this battle are David Ashman, Jesse Cotton, Jarrod Cotton, Andrew O’Callaghan and Troy Goostrey.

1. Which song (and artist) do you think of as your favourite purely based on the lyrics in the song (or album)??  Why?

Jesse: The best lyrics in my opinion are probably found in the genres of rap and country. In both genres “writing a song” means “writing the lyrics”, the rest doesn’t really matter. This importance on lyrics makes them memorable because they tell a story or message instead of being repetitively drummed into your head like a jackhammer.Having said that, I barely listen to lyrics. I don’t even know the lyrics to songs we cover, even the ones I’m singing on, and most of the songs I listen to are instrumentals.
So I’m going to go with a couple of artists rather than individual songs.

In last place – East 17
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s really alright. It’s alriiiiiiiight, it’s really alright.
Alright, alright, everything’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, everything’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, everything’s gonna be alright
Alright, alright, it’s really alright

They’ve achieved the feat of being more lyrically repetitive than Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough, with the annoyance level of Crazy Frog.

2nd place – K’Naan
K’Naan is a rapper from Somalia who fled to Canada with his family during the civil war in the early 90s at the age of 13. They actually got on the last commercial flight out of there. His lyrics are about his experiences growing up in poverty and enduring bloodshed and war. Kind of puts things in perspective and hits home just what we take for granted.I do only own 1 of his albums though, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, so it’s a small sample size.

1st place – Bell X1
An Irish band in the Snow Patrol kind of mould, only not as boring. And being Irish, that means they must be poets.
Let’s start with some good old similes:
“You’re just picking your knickers from your arse, like you’re playing a one stringed harp”
“And he was bare, stripped of his skin, like the ribs of a broken umbrella sticking out of a bin”
“You’re the chocolate at the end of my cornetto”
“You said they’d buckle, like the legs of a new born foal”

Add in a bit of pop culture references:
“All these walls are closing in on me like the death star bin”
“But you were paying the ferryman, even after Chris said don’t”

Some sexual innuendo:
“I’m not over you, can I get back under”
“Always good for a reacharound”

And some gems like:
“If there was a God, then why is my arse the perfect height for kicking?”
“If I had a hatch, I’d batten it down”
“I’ve been walking you into those lamposts again, I’d rather do that than let go of your hand”

Honourable mentions – Courtney Barnett, Blur, Hilltop Hoods, Pink Floyd, Paul Dempsey, Nina Simone

Jarrod: “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. I like this song musically but really the words have the starring role. Storytelling songs aren’t usually what I go for. They can tightrope walk between straight forward and corny and these folk/ balladeer songs can also get very loose with timing and phrasing. Not trying to be too critical of the style because I think this would be the hardest type of song to write and get right. It drills into the relationship between a father and a son similar to ‘Field of Dreams’ (Kostner movie), the unspoken feelings that isn’t the most obvious to outsiders. It is written chronologically giving a pretty realistic view on life in general and ending with the resignation/proud punchline “My boy was just like me” also changing Dad to Son in the last chorus to tie a bow on it. This song should get overly sentimental on repeated listens but it just shows how well it was written to not do that at all.
Honourable mention would go to “I was only Nineteen”by Redgum for best political song.

As artists go, I usually lean towards the gritty impressionists like Michael Stipe, John Lennon and Kurt Cobain. Also for me Jim Morrison’s beat poetry made the Doors.

David: Oh dear, that is a hard one. So may artists with great songs. I must say a lyric to a song that has really blown me away over the years is While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by George Harrison. The line ” I Look at the floor and see it needs sweeping” is so basic yet when you fit it into a song this way, it’s just iconic. Good on ya George. It wasn’t all about Paul and John.Another lyric that I love and is one that makes me laugh from it’s cleverness is REM’s  song “Can’t Get There From Here”. It has one of my all time favourite rhymes with the line  “Go ahead Mr City Wide, Hypnotized, Suit and Tie, Gentlemen… Testify”. It’s brilliant and one of Michael Stipes earlier masterpieces! 

Andrew: I am the Walrus” by The Beatles. Not sure what it actually means, most likely the result of an acid trip, but there is enough imagery in it to keep me wondering. I think at this period of The Beatles career, English teachers in the UK started to analyse The Beatles lyrics in the classroom, and John added in all sorts of lines to confuse them. I loved the whimsical and nonsensical nature of the lyrics – not too high brow. Followed closely by “Ashes to Ashes” by Bowie, who managed to add an epilogue to the lonely tale of Ziggy Stardust and suggest that his trip into space was just the mad imagination of a junkie.

Troy: Depending on what I’ve listened to recently when I think about answering this one, a track from that listen probably makes this list!! So many great lyrics out there and as I’m probably a fan of beats and hooks first, lyrics second, I don’t have an all time favourite lyric to answer with here. Instead, I’ll go with a style of lyric which I always love hearing no matter the mood I’m in, working out at the gym, riding home on the bus or just chillin’ at a coffee shop. And for me, that’s the Beastie Boys. The way they harmonise the final word – or part there-of – in each line is just something I’ve not heard anyone else ever do as well as them and I just love that style which identified a so many classic Beastie hits!!

“Well, now, don’t you tell me to SMILE
You stick around I’ll make it worth your WHILE
My number’s beyond what you can DIAL
Maybe it’s because we’re so versaTILE
STYLE, proFILE, I said
It always brings me back when I hear, “OOH, CHILD!

From The Hudson River out to the NILE
I run the marathon to the very last MILE
…. ahhh, just classic….

But so I don’t get accused with not answering my own question properly, to pick a specific track I’ll go back to the first track I think I really knew all the lyrics to, word for word and would sing all the time in the latter 80’s… Electric Blue” by Icehouse. The first track I can remember knowing all the lyrics to and not just the chorus!!

2. Detail your favourite moment when a live act you have seen has demonstrated the artistry in either their songwriting or composition of their music.  (eg. epic guitar/drum solo, improvised lyrics, re-imagined album tracks or something of that nature which is truly memorable to you)

Jesse: I can’t think of any specific moment, but I will say that any time Johnny Butler went off on his 15-minute acoustic guitar solo it was something to behold.

Jarrod: Like Spinning Plates” by Radiohead is the best re-imagined album track live. Fully compressed sound with strings on Amnesiac to a clear piano piece in concert. I’m guessing the song started its life on piano, but both great versions.
Kram from Spiderbait fell off the back of the stage through the curtain taking a cymbal or drum mike with him trying to walk around the kit mid drum solo. He got up like a gymnast dismount and everyone cheered, that was really memorable for me and I guess also for him.

David: Probably for me a moment in time when I saw Them Crooked Vultures in Melbourne brought together my favourite bass player of all time John Paul Jones and the best drummer living today in Dave Grohl to create the rhythm section of the gods.The drumming of Grohl to see live, (I never saw Nirvana when he drummed and he now shreds guitar with the Foo Fighters) is a thing of beauty.  And I wasn’t disappointed I must say. Then you chuck JPJ to fill in the groves with his rock/funk/soul/punk/metal, call it whatever you want bass playing and it is a sonic wonder to the ears. I walked away a happy man that night seeing that I couldn’t see Zeppelin live, this was the next best thing.

Andrew: I saw Sting perform at Memorial Drive in 1985 with a talented backing band that he formed for his first solo album, called “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”. They were all jazz musicians, including Branford Marsalis (great sax player). Sting chose the name of the album because he had a dream (probably while meditating after tantric sex and too much lute playing) where all these blue turtles climbed into his backyard, and he interpreted this as the bunch of African American jazz musos coming and showing him how to play music. It demonstrated to me the variability of certain styles of music that lend themselves to crossover influences. While Sting was the conductor and they were his tunes, he was just along for the ride at times as the Blue Turtles ran amok.

Troy: My pick here is Herbie Hancock, seeing him deconstruct (or maybe better described as reconstruct) Rockit when I saw him live was awesome. Just love that track and watching him describe how he built up that riff across a grand piano and keyboard was something I’ll always remember. This was at his show in Adelaide at Her Majesty’s Theatre which Jesse, you and Mim were at too maybe a decade back now? I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing him at Festival Theatre with Russ for an equally awesome show, but this moment of his work on how he built Rockit will be my memory so far.

3. What album would you say has your favourite cover art of all time??

Jesse: I am going to have to answer this based on the fact that I bought this album (albeit second hand) because of the cover art. And this CD continues to survive in my collection because of the cover art.
Dancing on the Ceiling – Lionel Richie.

How can you go past this for pure 80s cheese:

Where’s Lionel’s yacht please??
Enjoy that synth, man!
And then there’s this foldout on the inside sleeve for those so inclined!!

Jarrod: So many to choose from but Ummagumma by Pink Floyd has always fascinated me. It is essentially just a band photo with the posed portraits repeated in the picture on the wall. Different band members changing spots every time to infinity, supposedly. I narrowed it down to this one because most Pink Floyd covers would take effort and are well thought out.  Also I really appreciate essentially one creative idea done well.

David: OK now, this is the hardest question of the lot. The album cover is the thing that draws us in sometimes even before we’ve heard what is behind the art work in the form of music that awaits the lucky listener. By this little antidote I would have to cast my memory back of an album cover that had an eerie, fantastical, eye catching sight of a motorbike bursting out of a graveyard behind a fire red sky and a………hang on sec. Sorry Chris I’ve stolen your best album cover idea, I just couldn’t help it. Apologies. Oh well I’ll have to go to my back ups. I’ve always been a fan of the Hipnosis album covers of The Floyd, e.g. Dark Side of the Moon, Ummagumma, Meddle, Wish You Were Here etc… And then there is Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Outdoor, which came in five different formats based on the one picture. It shows a bar scene in which a mysterious character sits at the bar and is surrounded by four other characters. Each different album cover version was a point of view from one of the five characters in the bar looking at the mysterious character. Brilliant!!! Other album covers of note for me are Abbey Road from the Beatles (I’ve walked that crossing with Jesse many times) and Blood Sugar Sex Magic by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Also Tool need to be commended for their artwork as well. I could write about this subject for another couple of paragraphs but won’t bore you guys with my thoughts. Long live the album cover!!!!

Andrew: My favourite cover art album would be “Red Sails in the Sunset” by Midnight Oil. Two of my siblings were Oils fans, so by osmosis I became one too. My brother Gavin had previously bought the album “Head Injuries” with anthemic post-punk songs like “Cold Cold Change” and “Back on the Borderline” displaying the band’s surfing/Sydney roots. The artwork for that album featured Peter Garrret in full spastic dancing mode (dance moves I would emulate when I was released to the dance floors of South Australia during the Golden Era of pub rock), but as a cover piece of art, it was fairly uninspiring.  For some reason, “Place without a Postcard” was skipped in our household. Then in 1982, my sister Lynne came back from Bali with a pirate copy of 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Musically, Midnight Oil were getting better and better, with bigger anthems like “US Forces” and “Power and the Passion” warning complacent Aussie teens like me about the perils of hitching our national wagon to American interests, and stirring the fear of a nuclear armageddon. Unfortunately, the artwork for this album looked like a school project made by someone who had just learnt about Clip Art, and would have been better suited to the album cover of fictional ABC band The Takeaways in the TV show “Sweet and Sour”, rather than the revolution-inciting Oils. Finally in 1984, my final year of school, Midnight Oil released Red Sails, which had album artwork that was as inventive as their sound at the time, daring people to imagine what Australia (in this case Sydney) would look like after a nuclear attack. After this album, I started to drift away from Midnight Oil, as their sound and style became more polished, and their popularity waned in the 90s. But the album cover of Red Sails haunted me for a few years, so left a lasting impression.

Troy: Clubhouse leader for many years on this question as Poison “Open Up and Say Ahhhhh…”, love the cover on that one and still pretty fond of the big hair metal contained on it too!! 80’s Hair Metal at some of it’s finest!!

But a couple of years ago, I picked up this gem basically because of the cover art (plus a couple of Run-D.M.C. track on the vinyl inside) so it needed to be shared here. Love your work Mr. Magic, and glad you dressed for the occasion on the back of the cover too!!

Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack – not a Grammy winner by any stretch, but some cool poses on the cover!
The hat, coat and shoes ensemble of the dude on the right is pretty cool!
And is that a young Jay-Z sitting on the ghetto blaster????
Kudos, Mr. Magic!

There it is, adding some Art to our Music!! Hopefully it won’t be as long for my next post, so keep an eye out here for more…

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