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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

June 20, 2007

Song of the Week: This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race

The Pax Plena song of the week comes to you courtesy of Alternative music sensation Fall Out Boy and is titled, This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race.

FOB has been a recent introduction to yours truly although the group has been around on the order of a few years. Like most success stories they seem to have taken off overnight. Today's featured song appears on their latest album Infinity on High which also includes the hit Thnks fr th Mmrs- a tremendous song in its own right albeit a bit bitter.

FOB's music is most easily described as punk-alternative; an admittedly pronounced departure for an ardent country music fan such as myself. But what I enjoy most about FOB's music is its tempo and speed. Anyone needing a shot of adrenaline in the afternoon need look no further than the latest album. Fortunately, the up-beat tempo is seamlessly melded with a cutting edge mix of drums, guitar accompaniment, and even orchestra; all of which combine to underscore the clever lyrics of Pete Wentz and underrated vocals of lead singer Patrick Stump. In terms of style, the sound definitely stays true to its punk origins although there is a bit of R&B mixed in with today's selection.

The lyrics of this song are incredibly well done for a popular album. This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race forcefully presents the importance of free speech and thought for audiences' consideration. If I may indulge my own conjecture, the song also sketches a philosophy for the band's music: arming listeners with the power of words to fight in the battle of ideas. The driving idea behind the song also seems to embrace the medieval notion of singer as bard, poet and scholar. I would normally argue that this role is too much for most public entertainers- after all, how much can Britney Spears and Paris Hilton really contribute to public discourse? But FOB does a good job of rejecting dogma and forcing people to consider their own assumptions; a healthy phenomenon for any culture. In turn, today's song does an unusually good job of marrying provocative lyrics with memorable sound.

The video below tells the story of this tension and presents a complex picture of music in today's society. The band's view of the matter is not clear and leaves any conclusions wonderfully open-ended for listeners and fans to consider themselves. Lyrics follow after the jump. Enjoy.




This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race

I am an arms dealer
Fitting you with weapons in the form of words
And I don't really care, which side wins
As long as the room keeps singing
That's just the business I'm in

This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
I'm not a shoulder to cry on, but I digress

I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate
I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate

I wrote the gospel on giving up
(You look pretty sinking)
But the real bombshells have already sunk
(Primadonnas of the gutter)
At night we're painting your trash gold while you sleep
Crashing not like hips or cars
No, more like p-p-p-parties

This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
Bandwagon's full. Please, catch another

I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate
I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate

All the boys who the dance floor didn't love
And all the girls whose lips couldn't move fast enough
Sing until your lungs give out

This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
(Now you)
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
(Wear out the groove)
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
(Sing out loud)
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race
(Oh, oh)
This ain't a scene, it's a god damn arms race

I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate
I'm a leading man
And the lies I weave are oh so intricate, oh so intricate
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June 12, 2007

Song of the Week: Painter Song

After last week's 80s blast from the past, this song of the week is of a more mellow hue. Taken from eleven-time Grammy Award winner, Norah Jones, the Pax Plena song of the week is whimsically titled, Painter Song.

Musically, the song carefully opens with the melded strains of acoustic guitar and Jones' soft vocals. The initial ambiance created by the sound is one which transports the mind to distant places in time as much as it creates a sound which lulls and enchants. What ultimately makes the sound especially unique is its use of the accordion which enters softly for a solo after the opening verse. As the accordion plays, one immediately thinks of Italy and cool summer nights, which only helps to stretch the mind and make the music listening experience last much longer than it really is. The smooth sound of Jones' vocals provide the closing chorus as the song reaches its clear, folksy end.

Although yours truly is utterly bereft of any artistic ability whatsoever, with its eponymous title, Painter Song tells the story of an individual who yearns to be an artist that she might paint memories of a love past. The thought is not one far removed from most but Jones' song gives it a unique narration that makes it eminently translatable. Accordingly, more than any particular feature of the song, it is Jones' peerless voice which prods the mind to reflect upon such distant memories and reconsider those with whom we would meet again in a picture framed only by our mind's eye.

A video of the song with lyrics is below (no real music video exists to my knowledge). Lyrics follow after the jump.




Painter Song Lyrics

If I were a painter
I would paint my reverie
If that's the only way for you to be with me

We'd be there together
Just like we used to be
Underneath the swirling skies for all to see

And I'm dreaming of a place
Where I could see your face
And I think my brush would take me there
But only...

If I were a painter
And could paint a memory
I'd climb inside the swirling skies to be with you
I'd climb inside the skies to be with you

And I'm dreaming of a place
Where I could see your face
And I think my brush would take me there
But only...

If I were a painter
And could paint a memory
I'd climb inside the swirling skies to be with you
I'd climb inside the skies to be with you
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June 4, 2007

Song of the Week: Walk of Life

We're all about change here at Pax Plena. After a one time song of the week siesta (due largely to a confused blogger coming off a long weekend), this week's Pax Plena song of the week is back with a vengeance. Stretching the boundaries of genre, good taste and form, the Pax Plena song of the week comes to you courtesy of 80s sensation Dire Straits and is titled Walk of Life.

Time for a scary confession of the sort I typically try to avoid on this blog.

More than any song, Walk of Life defined the earliest memories of my childhood. To this day, I can vividly recall the backseat of my parents dusty, fourth generation Chevy Monte Carlo as we bustled down the country roads of Cotton County listening to the radio. Blaring on the radio was nothing less than our featured tune Walk of Life. Oddly, for some reason, I also recall associating elephants with the song. Silly dancing elephants. Apparently, somethings remain beyond the realm of apprehension. Nevertheless, released in May of 1985 Walk of Life is easily the earliest song I can recall. As an avowed connoisseur of country music, the realization troubles me. Then again, on another level, it really doesn't. What self-respecting 20-something didn't hear Walk of Life as a youngster? And what product of the 1980s wasn't wrought in ostentatious hair and a mellow beat? It could have been worse after all. I might have been born during the 1970s- suffice it to say I'd much rather have been young during the Reagan years than the Carter years any day.

Musically, what Dire Straits did best in the song was take rock 'n' roll back to its roots. Literate lyrics, simple chords, and syncopated rhythms. In fact, the song as performed on an acoustic guitar features mainly the A and E chords that any beginner would learn straight away. What most sets the song apart from other works and gives it its rockabilly feel is the memorable keyboard riff and bass guitar line which sustains the song throughout its four minute duration. One word comes to mind while listening: happy. The music video follows suit. While the British version is markedly different, the U.S. video features sports bloopers and features cameo appearances from Michael Jordan to Roger Clemens (back before the Yankees sucked).

Lyrically, the song was said to describe the plight of young music artists trying to make it big in the days before mass marketing and record deals. Think music bard as opposed to American Idol. It's interesting to note that for an optimistic song, there are a number of darker references but the melody and keyboard riff make it difficult to do anything but smile- in my case, perhaps nostalgically. Feel free to indulge your 80s music craving with the music video below. Lyrics follow after the jump.




Walk of Life

Here comes Johnny singing oldies, goldies
Be-Bop-A-Lua, Baby What I Say
Here comes Johnny singing I Gotta Woman
Down in the tunnels, trying to make it pay
He got the action, he got the motion
Yeah, the boy can play
Dedication devotion
Turning all the night time into the day

He do the song about the sweet lovin' woman
He do the song about the knife
He do the walk, he do the walk of life

Here comes Johnny and he'll tell you the story
Hand me down mu walkin' shoes
Here come Johnny with the power and the glory
Backbeat the talkin' blues
He got the action, he got the motion
Yeah, the boy can play
Dedication devotion
Turning all the night time into the day

He do the song about the sweet lovin' woman
He do the song about the knife
He do the walk, he do the walk of life

Here comes Johnny singing oldies, goldies
Be-Bop-A-Lula, Baby What I Say
Here comes Johnny singing I Gotta Woman
Down in the tunnels, trying to make it pay
He got the action, he got the motion
Yeah the boy can play
Decidation devotion
Turning all the night time into the day

And after all the violence and double talk
There's just a song in the trouble and the strife
You do the walk, you do the walk of life
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