Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Like Knives - The Fashion (Song and Music Video)

This one is going to be a challenge for me because what makes this song/video combo "great" enough to get its own blog post is very specific, and I feel I might not be up to snuff in explaining it.  However, a part of the reason I even have this blog is for the love and practice of writing, so I'll give it a shot.

Along with pretty much everyone, I enjoy music.  I listen to a variegated selection (I like to think so anyway) and I've come to the same realization as most of you: lyrics and poetry are not the same thing.  That doesn't mean that a good poem couldn't make good lyrics or vice-versa, but it does mean that some lyrics would not make good poems.  I've never held with the people who say that lyrics must--of necessity--stand alone.  I think there's a reason the words are paired with music in the first place; it's all part of one package, and along with that--with contemporary "band" music at least--comes this kind of tongue-in-cheek mentality a lot of musicians uncomfortably skirt around regarding the inevitable silliness of some modern music.  Let's take, for example, the word "baby".  This word appears in lyrics (in reference to a romantic interest) I think more commonly than in real life.  This also applies to "come on!" and random exclamations such as "yeah!", "ooo!", "alright!", "tonight/right now!", and "no no no!"  We could make a long list of these kinds of words/phrases, but I trust you take my meaning.  Some musicians don't really understand that while these words may sound normal enough in the song, they are also kind of funny.  The end of the Pearl Jam song "Once" is a really good example of this: it's dramatic and emotional, certainly, but there is also something almost goofy about Vedder's incessant growling, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, once!  Once!  Once!  Yeah, woo!  Once!  Yeah yeah yeah hey hey hey, once!"  The best artists--the ones who in my opinion really get it--know that this is funny but don't care because they also know it sounds right within the frame work of the songs.  The worst artists *radio cough cough* typically have no conception of this, and sing these things as if they were actually phrases and ideas.  I use these words only as a way of illustrating a larger point, that not only these words, but the whole execution of modern "band music" shares this balancing act between juvenile weirdness and the desire to make real art.  I hope that makes sense!*

This brings us to Denmark's "The Fashion": a band that made a couple of albums and EPs, had a single or two, and then just kind of fizzled out.  During their nine-year history they had one song that got some real coverage and that is, of course, "Like Knives."  This song sounds cool and its pretty catchy, but more importantly it treads a near-perfect line between total commitment to the song and an off-hand understanding of its inherent zaniness.  It begins with drums and guitar leading you into what seems like any well-made punky rock song, but then the lyrics happen and things change.  "Go get your guns and your switchblade knives and cut it up.  Kill the ones who speak (if they speak of us)**, cause they'll never really tame us."   The song then launches into a wonderfully pointless mix of words and music.  Basically nothing of substance is said, but man, he's saying it like he means it.  While it isn't full of the kinds of phrases discussed above, he does say, "You're so out of control!" in reference to who-knows-what plenty of times.

I've decided to include the video and not just the song because it further illustrates my point.  Watch them play their instruments and sing like they think they are so hardcore in front of cheesy green screens.  It's clear that this is one of those rare bands that really sees into what they are doing and tries to make the most of it.

-MA 1.15.13

*Although, every once in a long while I'll hear a song that is almost charming because of this naivety, but that is the exception, not the rule.  Usually this kind of thing just comes across as shallow and annoying.

**I put this in parenthesis because I like to think of this as a last-minute qualifier to the rest of the sentence which commands those being addressed to kill anyone who talks.


  1. Nice post, but I think it's silly to insist that if a song is played on the radio, it is probably written by a shallow artist. Pearl Jam was certainly played on the radio, and they still are. A lot.

    Also, how do you know that some of the artists you like really do know it's funny (but appropriate) to use phrases that sound weird in normal situations outside of the context of a song? Is it the way they sing it, the overall context of the song, or the overall context of all their songs?

    1. You're absolutely right, I didn't mean to suggest ALL radio songs or artists were in this category, only that many were and hoped that the mention of it would give readers a reference point as to what I was talking about.

      As far as your second point I really have no way of knowing since I don't know the artists personally and I can't ask them, but this is the kind of thing you "just know" such as knowing that a satire is supposed to be funny. Of course I could be dead wrong in my assessment of the artists intentions/feelings about the work, but that goes for any post on this site. If I didn't do it this way I would have to qualify every statement with, "in my opinion" which might not be too fun to read, but I appreciate the feedback and can easily see how some of that may not have come across in my writing. I'll take on the challenge of being more clear in the future! This kind of reconfirms the hesitation expressed at the beginning of the post that I may not quite be up to snuff in explaining something like this in the best way.