Title Bout: Demons

Music is in the air. Fall is generally big for new releases, and there are already a handful of worthy albums that are just hitting the shelves. Not only that, but plenty of old favorites seem to feel right when the air turns crisp and the streets are blanketed in wet yellow leaves. It’s a back-to-school, holidays-are-coming nostalgia which can put an extra pang in those old favorites. Plus, Laura and I are looking forward to a concert date at the end of the week (even with Isaac around, some hobbies will die hard).

So I hope to share my excitement about new music on this blog, but first I want to kick off a little comparison series about existing tunes. I am always quick to note how bands choose to title their songs and albums. Songs live together on an album, but are often consumed (ech–this word in this context is always glum) as individual pieces. How does the artist name a track that floats amidst a sea of other songs? Do they directly correlate the title with the wording of a catchy chorus, or do they offer something abstract for the sake of depth or novelty? Regardless of the approach, I like to think that the artist at least has an approach in mind. With that assumption, I ponder whether or not a title does or does not fit the delivered tune. And if it does, what happens when another band has a song of the same name? Are the worlds of the songs similar at all, or do the artists use the same title in distinct ways? To kick things off, let’s start with a song name that fits the mysterious month…

Demons

The Lawrence Arms vs. The National

Apparently some demons manifest themselves similarly in separate cities. What is it about aging partygoers that tends to invite this way of describing one’s dark side? At a wedding setting in what we might assume is Chicago, The Lawrence Arms tell an anthemic tale of attempting to “love for the moment and forget for the night,” putting a positive spin on daily despair. The narrator is a weekend warrior who sees his [male for the sake of my interpretation] own demons mirrored in those around him, so tries to rouse a coalition of confessors. He portrays “Everybody singin’ ’bout/ The dyin’ ain’t gonna stop/ Just because you walk away” then proceeds to tell others, in order to tell himself: “You can cry for the things that you lost/ But you’re never gonna bring back these days.” It’s a lightweight punk toe-tapper that celebrates its demons instead of being debased by them.

All the way over in New York, another lone figure wanders through a tune by The National. This “man about to fly” is also crying for things he lost, admitting: “I do my crying underwater/ I can’t get down any farther.” He is in a sea of socialization, but laments, “When I walk into the room/ I do not light it up. Fuck.” While in Chicago the bouncing tempo suggests the bright offensive bulbs of a raucous hallway or hotel room, here the moody atmospherics are bringing down the lights, while bottles still clink in the corners of dark rooms. This song includes a response to the TLA cut: whereas the poppier tune boldly asks, “Where you gonna go now that everything’s shut down?” the man of the latter meekly inquires, “Can I stay here? I can sleep on the floor.” This is also the only one of the two that makes explicit mention of the title, framing a chorus around a sighed resolution: “So I stay down with my demons.” It is exorcism through repetition.

In both songs, the arc is similar: a man hopes to ride his turmoil through to the other end of a social situation, where demons await at the right angle of the evening–the party’s inevitable end. What happens next can either be a loud shout or a stumbling waltz, but the dance is the same. The tricky devils are completely invisible to everyone outside looking in, so the narrators do their best to illustrate the beasts they see so plainly in front of them, to have that dance between man and demon.

Winner: The National by a nose, for the illuminating “When I walk into the room…” line

Here are some links if you want to compare the tunes for yourself:

The Lawrence Arms – Demons (2009) (song only)

The National – Demons (2013) (official video)

And here is my demon:

IMG_20131016_152903

Take care, all!

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