Working Man photo

Although it does make me question the purpose of a music critic, I am at that point in my life where I am prepared to admit nobody listens to music the same way. There appears to be a general consensus that some music is actually unlistenable (Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima, anything written by Mike Love), but these are extreme cases – beyond this it's all over the map.

  Some people like a certain beat and a good singer – they would be perfectly fine with hearing Erykah Badu recite a grocery list over a good groove (which I think she might actually do). Some prize virtuosity over all things -- I have friends who will watch Youtube clips of Nuno Bettencourt playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” on guitar, or Greg Lake butchering Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown” on keys. God save us. We have poison pills too -- some of us would write off the best band in the world because one of the guitars was slightly out of tune.

  Personally, I like a good arrangement and, if you’re going to have vocals, decent lyrics. Both are a source of frustration with many local acts; the classic Columbus Sound arrangement is to start a song and then stop it, and the floorboards of 100 bars groan with freedom and love as understood by 13 year olds. Indeed, most of the local issues are thematic – dreadful from the top down instead of from the bottom up. That is, you can have a master’s degree in modern poetry and a vocabulary beyond the scope of modern knowledge, but if your song is about the relative merits of this week’s barn dance profundity will suffer.

  I can get over a bad (or non-existent) arrangement, but one bad lyric will make me hate you and everything you stand for. Nine years ago I wrote off Jack White’s entire career because of that stupid “had too much to think” lyric in the Raconteurs “Steady as She Goes.” It’s no way to live, but I can’t help it. And I’m not the only one.

  So I implore you, please put time and effort into your lyrics – otherwise we will judge you bitterly. Take, for example, a typical line-by-line response to the lyrics of the 1974 Rush song/turd “Working Man:”

Verse I

I get up at seven, yeah, and I go to work at nine. Not such a bad morning, really, assuming a short commute and fast shower. Plenty of time for a bagel and a couple cups of coffee, even if you have to take the kids to daycare. Also, what’s up with the “yeah?” It isn’t really necessary for the meter. A 7:00 AM wakeup isn’t actually that outrageous.

I got no time for livin', yes, I'm workin' all the time. Well, except for the hour or so you spent at breakfast. Wouldn’t mind an explanation as to why that doesn’t count as “livin.’”

It seems to me, I could live my life; a lot better than I think I am. Unsure if this is incomprehensible philosophy or just poor grammar. It leaves open the possibility that the measuring stick is a subjective but ultimately incorrect view. The grass is always greener…

I guess that's why they call me, they call me the workin' man. Leaving aside that this is somewhat speculative, this does call into question the identity of “they.” Do people yell that at you as you walk down the street, and have you ever considered the possibility that it may be sarcastic?

They call me the workin' man, I guess that's what I am. Assuming for the sake of argument people really do call you that, it is not wise to surrender your self-identity to the whims of others.

Verse II

I get home at five o'clock, and I take myself out a nice, cold beer. So you’re arriving home by 5:00? Even without a lunch break that’s less than 8 hours, and I’m becoming less convinced that you are in fact “workin’ all the time.” Maybe you’re just hammering a few brew-dogs before starting your second job as a forklift driver in a crowded factory?

Always seem to be wond'rin', why there's nothin' goin' down here. Well, if you’re getting plastered at 5:00 this should be rather obvious.

It seems to me, I could live my life; a lot better than I think I am. If I had your schedule, I would exercise every day and have time left over to write the Great American Novel.

I guess that's why they call me, they call me the workin' man. They might, but I don’t.

They call me the workin' man, I guess that's what I am.  I'm calling you other things too right now – none of them flattering.   

So there you go, proceed with caution? 

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