Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Toby Keith - She Left Me

Okay, so I came to love Toby Keith as a larger-than-life figure who was unashamedly, but often hilariously patriotic, and basically sent the entire genre of dad-rap packing when "I Wanna Talk About Me" had US radio on lockdown at the end of 2003. A man who didn't so much deliver punchlines as send them running for cover by bellowing them and who didn't differentiate between his good lines and his bad ones, he wanted you to hear ALL of him, and (sometimes) it was good.

And what's he gone and done on us? Why, dear reader, he's mellowed, and it's not an awful lot of fun, mostly. Except for this, which is rather wonderful but disappointingly subdued. Where the old Toby would have roared out his best lines with the maniacal glee of a hack stand-up comic and you couldn't help but smile, but while there still are some ("She'll remember me until the day that she forgets me/We'd still be together.. but she left me"), it's all a bit restrained and judicious.

On the plus side, it means you might not notice a cliched clunker of a line like "I heard she ran off with my best friend Jake, I know I'm gonna miss him", but beyond that, this really could have done with some oomph. Not passion, part of the joke here is that Toby doesn't actually seem too bothered about what befell him, but a straight-faced, straight man joke goes down a bit more effectively if everything around you is a bit crazy - and it's not the fact that something's missing, it's just that what's there should have been cranked up a bit. I'll blame the producer, he was probably too engrossed in dials and buttons without working out how this plays on CMT which everyone knows is more important.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blue Rodeo - Can't Help Wondering

I'm back. Pardon, but I was overworked and depressed, and this song, and its parent album, were my attendant company.

I saw this band live a few years ago. I can't remember in what capacity, but they weren't the headline act. I'd heard people outside muttering "I've heard they're, y'know, country.". There may or may not have been grimaces, but as this was during the last days of my indiehood, I couldn't really bear to look at the indie kids up close.

They were good, too. One particular song, which I thought may have had something to do with rain in the title, had this magnificent, insistent bass-line that stuck in my head, and even if the keyboard player didn't seem to add anything texturally to the songs, he was having a whale of a time doing whatever he was doing and I enjoyed it. I suppose it's because I don't live in Canada, where they're an institution. And not particularly loved by the cognoscenti.

But fuck a cultural cringe, anyway.

I love this band like an out-of-fashion Canadian, even though I'm only the former. I love how this song is a precisely plotted piece of lamentation that resolves, and ultimtely means nothing. I love the extended pronunciation of "I", rendered as "Ay-hay!" (could have done better things, indeed). I adore how the chorus breaks down into a series of repetitious, yet soothing platitudes. I like how it's gruff enough to be real, but not so much as to scare me off.

It's comforting music. It reminds of other things. The second song off their current album, the opening reminds me a bit of "Don't Fear The Reaper". I couldn't tell you what this reminds me of, but its recycled two-pint feelgood may be as cliched as the reassuring words of a friend, but we treasure those, not reject them.