As I've often said before, when it comes to music, I'm something of a lyrics man. I can and do like bands that write terrible lyrics (I'm looking at you, Interpol!), but on the whole I tend to like wordy bands. Alt-J are one of my favourite bands and they write interesting lyrics. I was slow to get their debut album, "An Awesome Wave", and I think they'd already won the 2012 Mercury Prize by the time I finally did. Still, better late than never, eh? Since then, it's become one of my most frequently played albums. The singer's vocal style is perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, but it didn't bother me in the slightest. "Tessellate" is a brilliant song.
They're kind of geeky: they sound a bit geeky and the name of the band - the mac keyboard shortcut for the delta symbol ∆ - is certainly geeky. And as for the song titles..... well, "the tessellation of a flat surface is the tiling of a plane using one or more geometric shapes, called tiles, with no overlaps and no gaps". Even the video to the song is a reworking of the Raphael painting "The School of Athens".
Perhaps not surprisingly, the band don't really like being put in this pigeon-hole. I read an interview with them where they seemed a bit put out that more people hadn't picked up on some of their lyrical sub-text. Apparently, "Tessallate" is filthy. I hadn't noticed. It has very striking lyrics, but none that struck me as particularly filthy. I went back to check.
If you say so. I can't see it. Maybe tenuously, but they're hardly spelling it out, are they?
Their new album, "This Is All Yours" was released on Monday and it seems as though the band have taken steps to ensure that they aren't so easily misunderstood again. I was listening to the album this evening and the following jumped out at me from "Every Other Freckle":
I want to share your mouthful
I want to do all the things your lungs do so well
I’m gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag
A couple of things spring to mind:
a) That's a lot more obviously dirty-minded.
b) "I'm gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag?" Really? It's not exactly Shakespeare, is it? Is that what the ladies like to hear nowadays?
I applaud the effort to find a way of saying something on this subject that doesn't resort to lazy cliché - assuming I've understood his meaning correctly - but.... really? Like a cat bedding into a beanbag? How does that even work? Pad, pad, pad. Turn-around-on-the-spot-several-times. Lick own backside. Sleep for twelve hours straight?
It's certainly an unusual image. I wonder where on earth you can go lyrically from there?
Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet
Oh. Right. Obviously.
Is that such a bad lyric it's brilliant? At least it isn't banal, I suppose. I doubt Noel Gallagher would have come up with something quite like that, opting for something entirely more obvious (and probably already used by John Lennon). Except it sort of is banal. What could be more banal than a crisp packet. It's also, at the same time, oddly arty. It's also conjured a very specific kind of mental image that I can't quite un-see.
It's just a flat-out horrible line, isn't it?
The song continues......
Let me be the wallpaper that papers up your room
I want to be every button you press
And all mouths that surround you
Yes, I’m gonna roll around you
Like a cat rolls around the chrysanthemums
I’m gonna kiss you like the sun browns you
Oh, seriously. Stop it now. Is this a Flight of the Conchords song?
(love the album, by the way)