Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Athletico Spizz 80 - "Energy Crisis" (1980)

Vocal melody is only the root note of each chord throughout both the verse and the chorus. The phrase modulation from the dissonant progression rooted in A minor (verse) to the hardcore-like progression rooted in F# major (chorus) is a real example of a writer just reaching for anything at all, regardless of tonal relationships. Works because of the surprise, the aforementioned melodic simplicity, and the energy with which Spizz as vocalist nails it.

The idea of this chorus is so good, in fact, that Spizz just repeats the first two lines over again. And then this four-line structure, the whole of the chorus, is such a good idea in itself that they repeat it after each verse.

Topping things off, this 4:38 track could easily end with the vamp on the verse chord progression after the third chorus, but instead includes a coda of entirely new musical materials in another somewhat random key (B major). Suggesting even more of a sense of urgency, Spizz reduces the melody on this final section to one note only.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Desperate Bicycles - "Smokescreen" (1977)

Here's a good contrast to the last post. While the verse in "Gotta See Jane" lasts for about thirty-eight seconds, "Smokescreen" starts off with four verses in quick succession lasting a total of only forty-four seconds! The unusual rapid pace of lyrics is something both songs actually have in common. Both are also very tightly constructed. "Gotta See Jane" has a slightly more elaborate harmonic vocabulary, but we can see here that the biggest aesthetic difference between these songs, as compositions, is this structural element.

Those four verses, all with separate text, occurring before you hear the chorus for the first time, make for an amazingly articulate burst of energy. Following that first chorus with four more verses, all once again with new text, just continues to push this song into the stratosphere.

(Also enjoyable about "Smokescreen": the harmonic vocabulary! You hear F minor in the verse as a borrowed iv chord, but then it goes to C minor and Bb major, as though there's a momentary modulation to the flattened subtonic.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

R. Dean Taylor - "Gotta See Jane" (1968)

Rhythmically, there's so much emphasis on beats one and three in this song that it's easily perceived as being in cut time. The drums that enter on the second verse play a backbeat rhythm, though; and analyzing this in terms of a quicker four-four beat is actually helpful in seeing how it's put together.

The long verse structure starts with a couple of four-line sets of lyrics, both sets lasting for six bars. The first two lines of each set, one measure each, have one-syllable rhyming words falling on beats two and four. The third line of each set, however, holds off on the rhyming word until the first beat of the fourth measure. The fourth line also holds off on its rhyming word, this time until the second beat of its subsequent measure (the fifth). The section then comes to an end with a rest through the remainder of measures five and six.

The second part of the verse, similarly, has two short sets of lyrics. These sets start off with three lines delivered in the same manner as line three in the preceding sections, lasting for one measure each with the last rhyming word occurring on the downbeat of the subsequent measure. Unusually, these three lines all rhyme with one another and are followed by a non-rhyming line. As with the preceding section, this non-rhyming line is followed by a rest that extends through the fifth and sixth measures. The lack of a rhyme leaves the section open-ended, however, so Taylor completes it with an additional two-measure, two-line rhyme. This makes for an unusual six-plus-two measure phrase length overall.

All of this takes about thirty-eight seconds! The full song structure involves two of these verses, a bridge, and then the verse structure heard again with an instrumental section of strings heard instead of vocals over the first half. Apart from the vamps at the beginning and end, that's only four sections total: AABA.