3/24/2008

Saturday night, and I'm all alone in my room.

I got sandbagged by a record yesterday. I've been digging out old records from the mid-90s for a group project that I'm involved in on a certain message board, where we're all making mp3s of records that have become hard to find in the intervening years. Due to my packrat tendencies and irrationally out-of-proportion love for music, I've got tons of stuff that fits the bill, and I've been slowly transferring it all to mp3 and posting it on the internet. Yesterday, I got around to a 7 inch by the band Copper, a short-lived Equal Vision band from the mid-90s who were best known in the hardcore scene, but sounded more like a British pop band, along the lines of The Sundays, than anything even remotely resembling hardcore. Their 7 inch, "Freckle" b/w "Tuesday's Child", was one of only two releases they had, the other being the LP "Drag Queen". They rerecorded the songs from the 7 inch for the LP, but the new versions just never worked as well for me, so I was making it a point to rip the 7 inch versions.

There was a time, many years ago now, when I played that 7 inch a lot. To this day, I know both songs word for word and can even remember the bassline to "Tuesday's Child", which I figured out in 1997. But it had been a long time since I heard the 7 inch--several years, I'm sure. So I guess I was a bit unprepared for the huge rush of emotion I felt when I heard the beginning of "Freckle". "Oh shit," I thought. "This is going to make me cry." Sure enough, by 30 seconds in, I was bawling. And I guess it makes sense--even though it's been years since I suffered through the sort of unrequited longing that Meaghan Ball is singing about on "Freckle", it's the kind of thing that's never very hard to remember. It stays with you. And it helps that she does a masterful job of describing it in the words.

Which is not to say that they're an example of brilliant, deathless verse, either. No, the reason that I'm so impressed with the lyrics to "Freckle" is their note-perfect simplicity. Even though not too much is really said in the song, nothing is left out. Every emotion, every experience, that is depicted in the song is described perfectly, in a way that leaves nothing for the listener to wonder about. It's all there. And it's married to one of the most perfect pop songs I've ever heard, which just makes the whole thing hit that much harder.

"Freckle" starts out with a hi-hat intro that leads directly into a catchy, upbeat verse riff. Meaghan Ball starts singing over it after a second, and her voice is doubled by that of bassist Garrett Klahn (more about him later), who is singing through enough reverb and from far enough back in the mix that it's impossible to tell what he's actually singing. However, the important part is that his vocal part adds emotional resonance to Meaghan's lead vocal, which begins with the phrase, "Saturday night and I'm all alone in my room." Those nine words are enough to paint a detailed picture for anyone who's ever been lonely and wished that they had someplace to go, someone to hang out with. The next line, "And all I can do is think of you", is equally evocative. And then, when she ends the verse with "But to you I don't even exist," the cumulative effect is crushing. It's a simple description of some pretty standard feelings that are so common as to be nearly universal, and yet, by capturing it so perfectly, she turns what could have been a cliche into something that will hit home with almost any listener who hears it.

In the chorus, Meaghan grows wistful, singing "If only I could kiss your tender lips, you'd crush me with your smile." It's the other side of the lonely nights in one's room--the fantasies of how wonderful it would be if you could finally win the heart of the one you desire. The music mirrors this wistful feeling, growing more restrained and almost melancholy in mood. The second verse kicks back in with its more driving riff, and the lyrics reflect this as well--"Yet every day you walk past my house, and you're holding another's hand, but you won't even turn to look my way." At moments like this, the mood of the song is almost defiant; there's a sense that Meaghan knows that she's being slighted, and deserves better, but in the end, as the choruses indicate whenever they come in, she can't let go of the beautiful picture within her head for long enough to convince herself that the better treatment she deserves is something worth abandoning the beautiful fantasies in her head. This is emphasized by the song's ending; rather than ending on an upbeat note, the final chorus slowly trails off until all that remains is a softly picked guitar line and Meaghan singing "You'd crush me with your smile..." over and over into the fade.

I guess the reason this song totally wiped me out yesterday is because of how strongly I can relate to this exact method of handling feelings for other people. It's pretty much always been how I dealt with things. Back when I was younger and had way more struggles from day to day with powerful feelings for people that I saw myself as having no chance with, songs like "Freckle", and pretty frequently "Freckle" in particular, were like life preservers for me. It made me feel a little more valid and a little less alone to hear someone else struggling with the same feelings. And hearing this song again brought it all back.

Not like it's as far in the past as I like to pretend, either. The truth is that I still do develop crushes on people. My confidence is so shattered these days, probably worse than it ever was when I was 21 or whatever, and I talk to girls I like even less now than I did then. The sad truth is that I had a crush on a girl who was the roommate of one of my good friends for over a year, throughout which she was single, and was always really friendly to me and would talk to me for 15 or 20 minutes at minimum every time I saw her around. And yet, I never did a damn thing about it, never even hinted at my feelings for her, and now, within the last two months or so, she's gotten a boyfriend. I did this to myself. I told myself throughout that year that if I tried, she'd shoot me down, give me the friend zone talk, and as right as I probably am about that, I never even tested the theory. I've buried a lot of these sorts of feelings, which I guess is what will happen when you go through several intense relationships in a row and have all of them end in a devastating manner, but they're all still there. And that's why listening to a Copper song that I haven't heard in years is enough to reduce me to tears.

Copper - Freckle

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3:16 AM  
Blogger Handsome Pete said...

Do you have digital versions of both songs on the 7"? I have the 7" but no means of ripping it.

Thanks.

6:53 PM  
Blogger A Mistake said...

This was a great post and thanks for putting it out there. This is, and has been, one of my favorite songs for years. I am going to link this posting to a post I have going up shortly.

Thanks

11:41 PM  

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