Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't Pretend

So, see if you believe that this exists. This is a self-helpish track, just this far from Max Powers in its lyrics. Our friend John urges us to carpe the diem in very blunt terms, with some seemingly obvious inversions of what is meant ("the physical world will transcend", "life is the dream that you must wake"). It lacks any sort of particular angle that would make it particular to a specific scenario, but is sort of generic and all-encompassing. Only the coda gives it any hint of an interesting spin: "You'll be a big man someday / just starting with today," which might be interpreted to mean that it's directed at the young.

But why does it feel like a Violent Femmes song? The vocal melody, the weird and American word choices, the occasional lapses into anachronism ("troubles must needs come"), the pulsing/stabbing instrumental (except here it's piano)? It's so blatant you'd think it was written by Gordon Gano.

Which indeed it was, appearing as it did on GG's strange 2002 quasi-self-tribute album Hitting the Ground. Elsewhere on the bizarre my-new-songs-performed-by-my-heroes album, Lou Reed got a cowriting credit on the much earthier "Catch 'Em in the Act", but Cale just plays the notes and sings the words as written. Gano observes, "I wrote 'Don't Pretend' trying to play like John Cale. Instead of me imitating him on the record, you get the real John Cale playing the song they way I envisioned it. How cool is that?"

It sounds like an interesting sort of hall of mirrors, Cale performing Gano (writing like Cale) like Gano, but really it just ends up being insulting to both of them. My favorite part of the whole weird scene is the credulous reviewers suggesting it would fit on Paris 1919. Thank God Cale was about to come out of his period of collaborative drift with 5 Tracks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Self-help song" - "Max Powers", whom we've never heard of - are you sure you don't mean Will Powers ('80s short-lived "dancing for mental health" act) ?