22 February 2006

jackson browne - "late for the sky" (from the late for the sky lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : jackson browne? no, it's okay to like this one b/c it was in taxi driver, and you like that movie.

because jackson browne is a Lyricist, there is a tendency on the part of some critics to do a really in-depth exegesis of his work. of course, if the lyrics mattered all that much to me, i would like more jackson browne songs than ... well, just this one. i'd rather focus on the music, myself, b/c i think that's what would help you to get past the fact that this is jackson browne, a name that might summon up the worst of easygoing, made in the shade, mid-70's california singer / songwriters.

to begin w/, "late for the sky" is anything but easygoing or easy listening. it goes down easy, if only b/c the music is so spectacular, so let me say something about that music. there's little filigree; the instruments all seem to know their parts and stick w/in the limits. it's a largely earthbound production, which is right for so many reasons, organs and pianos that are structural more than anything else. a lone guitar pokes around, mostly just smooth lines that occasionally threaten to spiral upward but just end up sounding like the most lonesome thing ever recorded. it's almost like a "what if," as in "what if the coda to 'layla' had a coda?" answer : it might sound as exhausted and broken as this. and then this coda to a coda has its own coda : at the v. end, the song finally seems as if it will reach a crescendo, the organ swells, the guitar plays chords, jackson browne is passionate--and it all just falls away. it's like sitting by the ocean, waiting for the wave to hit your feet ... only for it to, not only pull back, but pull back for good.

which leads to the lyrics, i guess. this is the end; and no easy rhymes here : that other person you see is anything but a friend, you hardly know them, but then you also know them far too well. imagine the worst date you've ever had; then imagine finding that person in your bed the next morning and they never leave. it's worse than that, though, really b/c this person once meant so much and now you're living in postlapsarian times. me, i've always though jackson browne something of a dick, and he admits to it here basically. but then he sings, "now for me some words come easy / but I know that they don't mean that much / compared with the things that are said when lovers touch," and that's worth some sort of redemption right there. he knows how little his way w/ words, his cleverness matters when compared w/ an unaffected tenderness; he understands that that there are things that matter more than being right all of the time and just how much it would be better if he was all right.

but he's not, and so the end result is his own blood on the tracks ... before there was a blood on the tracks. moreover, since he was never dylan, and doesn't come w/ dylan's weight of personality, "late for the sky" isn't impenetrable or impersonal : it's a song that the every man can relate to (and everyman, too, scorsese having used it to score travis bickle's breakdown). and though few men would willingly relate to such a song, w/ the attractiveness of the music and the sweep of the melody, "late for the sky" makes breaking up a little less hard to do.

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