November 12, 2007

The Protracted Saga of "New Lyrics"

When is writer's block not writer's block? One of the reasons I thought of actually spitting out a novel- the two or three times now that I've tried to write one- was that my lyric output was grinding to a relative halt, and I thought a bigger canvas might help. It's not just me- Bryn's been feeling the same drought too, apparently, but since I'm merely a passable bassist at the best of times (and a shitty, shitty default band manager) I always counted on my song lyrics to help me do my part in both the Mojo Wire and Honey White.

For the most part, it worked, and for a while there I was doing fine. Collaborated with Bryn and Adam for some silly blues parodies on the first Mojo disc ten years ago, then tossed off four more for the second album between Nov. '97 and Feb. '98. Actually, 1998 was pretty damn good- add another three for the Mojo's third album, and then a 4th lyric in 1999 before that disc's release. One more in '99, plus four after that in 2000 made up my share of the final Mojo album. For Honey White, I got two on the first disc in '02, and five on the big album in '04. That's what- 23 lyrics in 8 years? Not exactly prolific, but that's not counting the dozens of non-starters that never saw completion. But still.

Well, lately (and by lately I mean for all of 2005, 2006, and 2007) there hasn't been much to brag about lyrically, mostly because, I think, I've been trying too hard to make a given lyric "fit," whether that be to a formula or a given tune or whatever. Sometimes there are too many syllables for a line (Elvis Costello disease). Sometimes the first line that comes to mind is the same old 5-7 limerick-style rhyme (I can't bring myself to not rhyme a lyric- it's just been impossible so far). Sometimes- wait, see? That's exactly what I'm talking about. Why not let the thing not rhyme? Why fix the syllables to a scheme, why automatically toss out one that's already used?

I tell myself I've already done it, that's why. I can't just let the damn thing be whatever it will be. Bryn and Adam were great at that, and they've written some very funny stuff and very heartfelt stuff because of it. My lyrics always feel too cerebral- but then that's me, that's what I've learned to do. Maybe it's the goddam English B.A., I dunno. See, Bryn and especially Brian churn out so much great music that it's a great challenge to see if I can put lyrics to any of their tunes. Adam was like that in the Mojo Wire too (and he paid me a great compliment a few weeks ago when he said our collaborations were his favorites). I put a lot of thought into lyrics, which on the one hand is ridiculous because who the fuck will hear them over the roar of the band? Still, I'm one of those people who looks at the lyric sheet once in a while, I dig a good turn of phrase delivered well, and I want to try and do it too.

Anyway, this whole bitchy rant was just to put a cap on some recording work I did tonight- re-recording the bass line for a new song called "Tempting Fate" that I hope Honey White will get to learn and play when we can practice again. Finished that lyric back in February of this year, after a long tooth pull (though not as long as "Lightning Rod"- that took four years!). "Tempting Fate" is my second lyric for this particular cycle- anything after the How Far Is The Fall material (the first was "Hold Still" from fall '05). Another one called "Winner Take All" is hard on its heels, but that one still needs a third verse to round things out. I wanted to catch up to Bryn, who's got two songs in the can since 2005 ("Nightfall" and "Green Hills") and Brian's got at least one done, too.

So the material is there for another release. We just have to all get together and do it, and although logistics are fucking death on this band, we'll get to it sooner or later. The Mojo Wire came back from the dead once, and Honey White came back from a mini-hiatus once too. It'll happen.

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