Thursday, October 12, 2006

economies of scale

I was recently given an interesting writing challenge: Get as crazy and as vivid with a record as I want but use...only 80 words.

Eighty. Eight-oh. Those of you who for some reason have decided to come back here for more than that Boris MP3 that expired from these pages some six months ago know that I have issues with word limits, or at least prefer to function without them. I tend to go on, is what I'm trying to say.

Eighty words. What is that, three sentences, maybe five? I could drop 80 words on the shirt I'm wearing right now ( 10 years old, you see where I'm going with this). I don't know if this is a good thing or not, but I'm convinced--have always been convinced--that words have power. Curious power.

I'm starting to get better, I think, and the assignment didn't take nearly as long as I thought. The one nice thing about such limits is words become even more precious at that point. Can I drop two words if I find one perfect one? Can I kill this one to save that one at the bottom of the paragraph? It becomes a war, a symantic chess game where you arrange your pieces in as agreeable shape as you can, forming an illusion of forces far larger than what you are able to fight with.

Words are a whole other matter.

This is the sort of exercise that could send me on some thematic bender, if I allow it, but there are some songs who's passionate use of words works to their disadvantage (hello, Hold Steady) while others tell you just enough and pack a whole novel into just a handful of passages. This is one of those songs:

"My Mom," by Chocolate Genius

I don't even know how much I want to get into the story of this song, why it just crushes me every time I hear it, or anything like that. But it's vital you listen to it.

Off the formerly known as Marc Anthony Thompson's fantastic debut record as Chocolate Genius, this heart-breaking ballad tells the decidedly un-rock story of his mother's struggle with alzheimers. Fun, huh? You're dying to right-click on that sucker now, aren't you? But seriously, come with me on this.

He pulls it off. Somehow, a five-minute smoky soul ballad manages to completely avoid the songwriting rest stops of Clichetown and Tritopia, even with a chorus that---well, I'm not going to say how the chorus goes because it might dissuade you.

But seriously...if you have any interest in songwriting, storytelling and vivid portrayals of moments and people, give this a shot. It's not just the song that's beautiful, it's the little details he throws in. Describing a tree at his childhood home as a goalpost, and how "Five times she asks me, no more and no less, she says how you been eatin', boy. And I say 'OK, I guess.'"

I don't know exactly how many words he used to fit into the mourning little melody (carried by bigwigs like Marc Ribot, John Medeski and Chris Wood), but I'm pretty sure if he used one more word the structure would've been too intricate, too delicate to hear. One fewer and the whole structure would've collapsed.

Buy 'Black Music' used from Hey, V2 let this little gem go out of print--and it's only eight years old. Thanks, guys! Hope Tower Records saves you a seat!


At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I was wonderin how I can getta hold a' ya.
A flleting thought went.
I can't recall what I WANTED to say....
but,you've probobly already thunk it, and maybe you've made it audible.
Maybe you, even said. "what you were thinking out loud"..?


Post a Comment

<< Home