15 August 2005

vic godard & the subway sect - "stool pigeon" (from the what's the matter boy? lp, available for purchase here.)

this posting is not going to be about vic godard or the subway sect; it very easily could be, though i'm sure it's been done better elsewhere--here, say.

oh, okay, one thing. for the longest time, the only sect i knew was "ambition," which should have been more than enough to spur a full-on investigation. in retrospect, i suspect that it was the lack of domestic availability of key albums--or should i say album, namely what's the matter boy? after a summary listen to said album, i would group him/them amongst the orange juices, the go-betweens, the dexys--in other words, bands that one finds compatible w/ their personality, that dovetail neatly into the way one has chosen to live their life. given the unfortunate paucity of sect recordings vis-a-vis those other bands, however, is enough to place them at a slightly further remove from the heart. (though, upon reflection, i do wonder if such a move is due to an unwarranted, petty jealousy: in my idle dreams of starting a band, one of the requirements for would-be recruits would be the ability to sing, as i'd like the band to be one part beat combo, one part street corner doo-wop outfit, a hybrid that godard had, i'd say, mastered some months before i was born.)

so, instead of that which i said i wouldn't write about (but already have), i want to discuss the process of discovering a song, of realizing that, of all the songs on an album or playlist, there is one that you need to hear again immediately. from what's the matter boy?, the song that fit that criterion for me was "stool pigeon."

it begins fairly mellow, a resounding guitar chord, melodic bass, w/ a pretty piano run filling the air between the two; seventeen seconds the pace quickens, leading to a crescendo that welcomes in godard's vocal. so far, so pleasant. (for those unfamiliar w/ my predilections, lyrics are always an afterthought--indeed, even as i write this i'm unaware of what the song is about, taking for granted that's it about anything.)

the chorus sounds like a full-band shout, while instruments are deployed in a very effective way--so far, it reminds me of a less smooth cockney rebel. after the chorus, the song returns to its opening tempo and feel, and, yes, speeds up in time again for the verse. (two other predilections: chiming acoustic guitars; slow-fast dynamicss.)

the bridge is when i looked up from what i was doing. it was, to be precise, the three seconds from 1:57-2:00. godard sings the word "sea" (or maybe "see"?), and the acoustic guitar rises to the fore. more than that, though, the vocal melody goes somewhere not dictated by the music, the two seeming at odds w/ one another, like an undertow pulling one where he or she is not sure they want to follow.

at this point, at least musically, i'm thinking early rod stewart, the mixture of soft and harsh, the energy generated by an acoustic band w/ an enthusiastic and charismatic vocalist; the closing eighth-note (?) stabs seem like something rod would have done as well, though he'd probably have turned it into a coda.

and perhaps, aside from the above anatomization, that's the reason the subway sect is elevated to a position of privilege in my personal listening habits: the good sense to accept--and appreciate--the lessons one can learn from what at the time, and, in the case of rod stewart, for all time are considered unfashionable acts and trends, the willingness to listen from the mainstream and to turn one's back on that which is prevailing in the punk(/alternative/indie) scene.

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