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Music Monday! On Tuesday!

As it’s Music Monday again, I’ll talk a bit about Naive Melody, “This Must Be the Place”. I love this song. The version I was listening to is off the first CD version of the Stop Making Sense soundtrack; the live version, but remixed, I believe, with the live drumming taken off and a drum machine put in, among other things. Not sure about that, now that I think about it. When did I buy the CD? I suppose I could dig around and find it. I almost never use any of the CDs I’ve purchased over the years. At home I listen to music on my computer, and in the car I listen mostly to library discs or mix CDs I’ve made for myself. Some CDs from my collection, but not a lot.

Anyway, I love the song. I have a terrific cover version by Gunnar (“Bob”) Madsen off The Power of a Hat, and I’ve heard a handful of other great covers, but this is my favorite. There’s something about the affectless voice of David Byrne over the “naive” and endles repetition of the hook together with the slight funk that creeps in. And the backing vocals are just wonderful.

One of the things that I love about the Speaking in Tongues album is the way the lyrics are relentlessly abstract, intended to evoke emotions rather than tell stories. Yes, YHB is a freak for narrative, but that means I am substantially less likely to love a song lyric or story or movie that isn’t narrative, but if I do like it, I like it a lot. Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps I can draw a connection to painting styles: I have little interest in still life or landscape, but I love a lot of truly abstract stuff: Malevich and Still and LeWitt. Perhaps the lyrics of Speaking in Tongues are like Sol LeWitt’s wall paintings: rigorous, abstract and beautiful.

And just a trifle unsettling. I mean, just a bit. It sort of has to be unsettling, just because the concatenation of phrases is unconnected, not only to each other but to the music, and to the expression of the vocals. The bits of phrases evoke home, mostly, both from a sense of longing for the heimishkeit and from a sense of dislocation or disorientation, from which home is a refuge. And of course, home is identified with the you in the song, rather than with an actual place or house.

And then the ending… the idea that somebody will “love me till my heart stops” is both comforting and discomfiting at once, isn’t it, particularly when repeated as “love me till I’m dead”. The eyes in the next line, the “eyes that light up” refer back to the line about having “light in your eyes”, right? But hear at the end of the song the “eyes look through you”; are they the singers eyes, then? Looking through the song’s second-person as in seeing into the soul, or looking through you in the sense of discovering their pretenses? Because the next line is “cover up the blank spots/hit me on the head”, which it’s tricky to force into the mosaic of comfort and love, particularly with the talk about death earlier in the verse. It would be possible to construct out of these disconnected phrases a frightening narrative—but it wouldn’t be consistent with the music. Nor would it be consistent with the clear intent of the lyric, which is to keep the images fragmented, rather than connecting them.

Because it is a beautiful song. For me, the cumulative effect of the whole thing, the lyric and the sound, is one of aching longing for the deep connection between people that constitutes a home, and of the surprised dawning of realization that it exists already.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

Well gosh--this has provoked my second-in-three-days experience of reaching-reaching-reaching for a song barely remembered in the back of my head. This one reminded me of the cover version I know better, by Shawn Colvin. (A little sweeter than Byrne's original, a little more inscrutable. How much of that is just the shift of voice to female?) I appreciate your analysis of the lyrics--that's quite close to how I hear them, but you actually go all out and verbalize it. Thanks!

Sunday's song-reaching happened when Notorious (plus Ralph Gordon), playing our contra, did a song by a friend of theirs that reminded me of... something with words...? But I couldn't for the life of me remember those words. Then I thought, harmonies...vocal harmonies--I bet it's Girlyman. Sure enough, it's their "Through to Sunrise", very similar to the chord progression of the melody from the contra, very *very* catchy melody, and the words--well, Girlyman's original lyrics almost *never* hang together for me. The friend who introduced them to me says, "Oh, it's poetry, you don't expect it to make sense." Way to irritate a former poet--this is just *bad* poetry. But it's awesome music, so I ignore the words mostly, with the result that I can't remember them when I hear something similar at a contra dance. :-)

Oh, and in case you're curious:
http://www.girlyman.com/themusic/soundclips.php

(And both of Notorious are poking periodically at a nyckelharpa. It's catching, I swear.)


"This Must Be The Place" is one of my favorite songs. Also the song for the bride and groom's first dance at Andy Perry's recent wedding.


One of my -- or, j7y's and my -- all-time favorite love songs, too. We didn't have a first dance at our wedding, but if we had, this would've been it. Instead, we cut our cake to it. Yay, Byrne!


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