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Saturday, March 16, 2013

SpinTunes #6 Round 4 Reviews: Paul Potts

Spoiler: Ross wins, in my book.

1. Ross Durand - Someone

So we have the same theme as last time – the after-effects of sending people off to war, but a little different take on it. This time, we’re talking about those that die or that come back emotionally disturbed, not the physically disabled narrator in the last song. This is a very effective song. A memorable guitar riff, used well; a terrific chorus; moving lyrics, touching but fresh and not clichéd. Ross uses the relatively simple instrumentation really well. It’s a nice loud mix. It builds up to a big chorus, and then we get an emotional surprise – a little girl singing, to help humanize it and bring home what it’s all about – that all those people we send to fight are “someone’s.” I have to say that I liked Ross’s story and the mood of the lyrics even more than his song last round. I listened to all the songs repeatedly, over the space of several days, to see how I felt about them after repeated listenings and letting them “stew” in the back of my mind. I find that I really wanted to hear Ross’s hook-ish chorus again. That’s exactly what a pop song is supposed to do. Great job!

2. RC - Get Out of My Way

I love the opening guitar work and the phasing/panning vocal. A really powerful opening line: “Dad’s gone, and Mom’s finally given up.” All the music and guitar work in here is quite well-done. The drums are serviceable. RC continues the theme of “savage inequality” in schools, and does so very well, without making it an essay. The lyrics don’t beat you over the head. You can read it as a slightly more generic “we gotta get out of this place” adolescent rebellion song if you choose, but it still conveys that sense about the schools, and the ominous threat of a school shooting, but only subtly. That’s a very effective lyric. It completely sounds like something I’d expect to come across on an indie rock sampler from a record label. It only gets marked down very slightly next to Ross’s tune because it does not quite achieve the level of a “big” mix, and it doesn’t quite have the hook. But it’s still very respectable work.

3. Edric Haleen - On the Matter of Bullying (Part 2)

I wrote and wrote and wrote on the subject of this song. I wound up writing a LONG essay that involves my own history of being bullied, the nature of art, musical theater, the use of pathos in art, the concept of melodrama, and many other things… man, I can ramble. But I’m… deleting all that… let’s just say that I’ve thought a LOT about this song and listened to it over and over.

So what it comes down to is this. The intro part is really effective and gripping. After that, it builds up to a very poignant and moving and dramatic place. Those creepy little minor second intervals that creep in on the piano are very effective. The narrator gets impassioned, and then… his emotional affect goes flat, as he coolly announces that tomorrow, he’ll be dead, and we go out on some little plucked piano-string sounds. That’s… chilling! Very effective.

Except for two things.

Thing one. I imagine this song as a song coming right before the climax of a musical. Let’s call it “Bullying: The Musical!” I can completely see and hear that happening. It goes through these stages – but something would happen, it seems to me. That passionatevoice would return, singing something about how he wishes it could have been different… if only… or something. Because, dammit, it just doesn’t work for me for the song to just fade out. Even if he’s resolved that he will die, I can’t believe the narrator doesn’t have, somewhere, that spark of wanting to live. He’s just shown he does. So that passion has to make a reprise of some sort. Or there’s a knock on the door; he’s interrupted. Or there’s an instrumental coda… – or something. I’m just not satisfied with the fade out. But… wait… it’s not a fadeout… it’s… it’s…

It’s Edric!

Thing two. Now I’m not sure I can even call this a song. It’s a PSA – a Public Service Announcement. Wow, you know, I completely sympathize with the cause and all, but what a jarring way to take me out of the song. Can I even still call it a protest song? Is it still a song at all? A song doesn’t usually end in a PSA. If I bought this CD, at this point it would have been ripped out of my player and gone flying across the room. (And also, I used to produce PSAs for my college radio station – it doesn’t make a good PSA. It would have to be much, much shorter, and really be just the intro part, leading right into the “are you being bullied, or do you know someone who is being bullied?” bit).

So this seems like neither fish nor fowl. It’s frustrating. I think Edric has what my son calls “mad skills.” I love where this starts to go. I’d love to go see “Bullying – The Musical!” and see how it all fits into the storyline. But it is just not working well for me as a complete, standalone song.

4. MC Ohm - If You Were Gay

I recognized the sample right off, as I own the Avenue Q soundtrack album (but I’ve never seen the show done live). (The Internet is for porn!) This is funny and engaging, but somehow it is less engaging than the song for the previous round. Sorry guys. I think this relies too heavily on the sample and there’s not enough musical variety and “ear candy” going on. The lyrics are good. It doesn’t change or build enough between choruses. I’m not sure using a highly recognizable sample really helped that much. It makes me think about Avenue Q instead of your song. It feels too short. It’s not bad, it’s just not better than your previous round’s song. Or your other songs in the whole contest, honestly. But I still think the Ohm deserves a lot of credit for several great contributions to this SpinTunes.

I’m running short of time here, but I should say something about the shadows. The shadows this time were… unusually strange… even for SpinTunes shadows. The BYDs must have had a lot of fun. It sounds like they recorded an instrumental and sent it to Cherry Pi to improvise a lyric. Let me try to be charitable here. It sounds like all of the songs were recorded… very efficiently… with a quick turn-around time…. but I’m not sure they would have withstood an ISO 9000 audit. Where is the traceability? Where are the customer requirements?

Boffo Yux Dudes - Wireless Head

It sounds a bit like a Robyn Hitchcock song… the lyrics are Syd Barrett-esque psychedelic. The production on this one is impressive.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Tear it Down, Build it Up Again

Ramones? Dickies? This… is BYD? I’m… getting confused… did I drink too much Cask Strength Laphroaig before I started listening to these?

Cherry Pi (w/ Boffo Yux Dudes) - Octo Pi (Shadow)

No, it must have been mixing the whiskey with the painkillers. What? Where am I? I was having the weirdest dream. I dreamed that I was listening to a Bongwater song I’d never heard before, called “Sokushu Goukan…” and Ann Magnuson was dressed like some kind of squid…

Boffo Yux Dudes - Operating System (Shadow)

This is that… “other” kind of BYD song… OK… not beautifully sung exactly… but, you know, this one kind of does meet the challenge of revising the concept of the last song into something more fun… I’m glad you guys are having fun!


  1. "Even if he’s resolved that he will die, I can’t believe the narrator doesn’t have, somewhere, that spark of wanting to live."

    I know. Yet every day, there are people who, just like this narrator, go ahead and commit suicide anyway. :-(

    I am sorry the song wasn't what you wanted it to be. But I thank you for your thoughts on the song. And I thank you for being a judge for this SpinTunes. It's a lot of time and a lot of work, and it's extremely nice to have a pool of judges who will help SpinTunes continue on as the wonderful Internet-thing that it is. Look forward to hearing more of your songs!



  2. Your Cherry Pi review is the best paragraph on this entire website.