Sunday, October 14, 2007

song of the week: caring is creepy - the shins

sunday afternoon with minifig, darling vicarage and our friend simon -
brixton's answer to the IT crowd

Absolute weirdness. This Sunday matinee's film was Zach Braff’s Garden State, as recommended by minifig who bears a scary spiritual resemblance to the film’s protagonist, Andrew. “Just watch it,” he implored, “you’ll see why, I promise.” So there I was finding Sam, Natalie Portman’s character, increasingly irritating and desperately trying to work out whom she reminded me of. And then I realised. Me. Aargh. Minifig found it hilarious. Ha. Ha.

Garden State’s not a terrible film – very slow-moving and treading a fine line between kooky/witty and kooky/annoying - but as a film shot through the lens of a depressive, it ain’t half bad. Anyone who’s seen it will know The Shins get a rather significant mention in it and so this week’s song of the week is Caring is Creepy, a dreamily downbeat number on depression.

Don’t be fooled by the chirpy whistling intro and punchy chord-laden intro, which in any other emo single would lead into something a little more upbeat. This is the liveliest it gets. James Russell Mercer’s plaintive warble is mixed into a trembling yowl merging with hushed guitars, sulky bass and moaning organ. The drums don’t so much as roll as plod in, cymbals whispering under a guitar yawning through various swirling effects pedals as if on the brink of waking. Mercer’s murky vocals curl up for a nap as the song folds in on itself.

Something approaching a chorus comes in the dour switchblade triumph of the lyrics ‘Hold your glass up, hold it in’, followed by the sing-song sigh of ‘never betray the way you've always known it is’. This sort-of chorus finally ends with the languid, lethargic syllables of All/ these/ squawk/ ing/ birds/ won't/ quit/ build/ ing/ noth /ing /lay / ing / bricks’ a creepy, meaningless chant that not only echoes the song's opening melody, but oddly, I’ve just realised, Sufjan Steven’s Chicago (last week’s SOTW). The murmuring organ and blurry guitars lazily work up something approaching a musical interlude before returning to that shrugging, tired mantra ‘Hold your glass up, hold it in...’

And yet, in its hushed drumming, distorted guitars and melting vocals there is something cosy about this song. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know that depression is a similar game; live with it for long enough and it becomes your friend and bedfellow, something to cuddle up with when the crowds have gone. A warm, fuzzy, big, fat nothing.

At no point in the song is the title referred to. The voice of the song is beyond caring, ‘never got cold wearing nothing in the snow’, and so articulating anything beyond the numb blankness of a bad case of the blues and a Lithium prescription seems facile. There’s none of the militant screams of the early Manics here or the ferocious drone and crash of Nirvana, or the self-loathing thrum of Nine Inch Nails. The Shins are way past that. Caring is Creepy isn’t a nervous breakdown, but the slow, sleep-deprived sigh of resignation. And, in that lazy Pavement, autumnal Elliott Smith kinda way, that actually makes it a rather pretty song. Oh! to be a fake-tortured teenager again. Only I'd probably have to like Panic! at the Disco and *shudder* Fall Out Boy if that was the case, so perhaps not...

Right, enough of this maudlin stuff, who's on for a bit of Push the Button?


At 19 October, 2007 00:06 , Anonymous sashagoblin said...

:o) my friend, i think you must be running thru my wakman...:OP

lemme know if you'er free anytime..

At 20 October, 2007 21:57 , Blogger darling vicarage said...

yes, we must meet soon x and yes, I too am absolutely thrilled to hear JK's finally pulled Dumbledore out of that closet.


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