Lately I’ve been wondering what makes lyrics work. On one side, there’s what the words mean. On the other, there’s how they sound.
Storytelling lyrics that follow characters in specific settings are satisfying if the story’s strong enough, as in the Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’ or any number of Dylan songs. The only drawback is that the listener has to concentrate all the way through. Then there are songs that riff around an idea or character, giving the listener telling glimpses. The Pet Shop Boys are great at this – ‘Being Boring’ and ‘Rent’ come to mind. Or the Kinks’ ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’.
But then again plenty of lines from songs stick in your head without seeming to mean anything at all, like the Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ (‘Jumpin' Jack Flash, It's a gas, gas, gas’). Or ‘Supersonic’ by Oasis. Or, taking it to extremes, Black Grape’s ‘In the Name of the Father’ (‘You know me easy bongo poo-poo for me’, plus some entertaining stuff about Neil Armstrong). Those lyrics may not look great on paper, but you don’t listen to songs on paper. And the principle also works the other way about – lyrics that look great on paper don’t always sound great in a given song.
It’s a tricky business.
News? The Empty Mirrors continue to write for the next EP. We have around ten tracks to whittle down to five or so. The e-bow is seeing plenty of action.