Last weekend, Lara awoke with a melody in her head that would not leave her alone. It was very catchy… dangerously so. Too dangerous to reveal here. The words were, “I’m not crazy / something something something / I’m just obsessed with you.” Anyway, we were sitting around toying with that melody, stretching it out, throwing it against the wall, and it eventually evolved into this week’s post, “Shrine,” a tale of obsessive love.

Lara ended up contributing several of the key lyrics, including the opening couplet — “Mama shuts me up and she locks the door / Daddy takes the knives from the kitchen drawer” — and the chorus’s thesis statement: “I’m out of my mind cause I want you.” (My original was the much more tortured epistemological tract, “I don’t know my mind but I want you.”)

I’m continuing to have fun with the good pop-rock sounds. I actually got a lot of inspiration from watching the new U2 concert film, “U2-3D,” over the weekend. This film has been flooded out of the popular consciousness by its more dominant colleague, “Hannah Montana in 3-D.” I think that there were a total of six people in the theatre. But despite the fact that Bono spent much of the film preening and prouncing around like he was an extra in Riverdance, I came away with a greater admiration for that band, mainly because of their extreme economy in writing hooks (both vocal and musical). The vocal lines that are known and loved the world over, like the “ooh ooh ooh ooh”s in “In the Name of Love,” or the “ho oh oh oh”s in “With or Without You,” are extremely simple. Three or four notes, tops.

Long story short, I came home and stripped down this arrangement considerably. I took my favorite two lines of the chorus and repeated them (rather than having four distinct lines), and I made the chord changes on the bridge the same as those of the verse section. Simplify, simplify. I’m basically trying to pare down these new arrangements until all that’s left is that which benefits the song itself, as opposed to that which exists only to cocoon my delicate ego. I don’t think this one turned out a home run… more like a long single. But sometimes ya gotta play small ball.

By the way, we are playing the Empty Bottle on Friday, and there will be lots and lots of new blog songs featured, including “Media Memory” and “Empty Frames.” All thanks to your magnificent feedback!

12 Responses to “Shrine”
  1. Bueno! What percentage of songs featured here ever make it into rotation as Baby Teeth cuts? Or more to the point, what is the breakdown of how many songs featured here go anywhere, and how far do they typically go, and on what kinds of things does their mobility or lack thereof depend?

  2. James Smythe says:

    Well, I can’t say that I like this one as much: I would be lying to you. I like the constant beat, I like the verse. The chorus leaves me a bit more meh: it’s catchy, but a little lacking in (ack!) soul. You’re really good at those choruses (chorii?) that sounds like the point that a song SHOULD reach, that little climax, whereas the chorus to this sounds more like a transitional section of the song, like the chorus is going to come roaring in afterwards, but it never does. The song is still really good, really solid, the last few weeks have utterly spoiled us. I think that economy with songwriting that you speak of is totally true – people’s favourite songs (note: not necessarily the Best songs) are often the ones that they remember best, which, by necessity, makes them simpler, I think – but I would love to hear this before it was stripped back as well, back when it was more complicated, because, I think, for me, that complication is needed here. Have you ever thought of that, of posting multiple versions of the same song, showing the evolution etc?

    God, I feel bad writing anything even slightly negative.

  3. The Bubble King says:

    I think I agree with Jamesy-boy to some degree. I listened Monday morning, and again now, reading the comments. There was something I couldn’t put my finger on before. But I think James got it. It’s got some good stuff going on, but then it does feel like it needs to go up to that next level… like explode into the stratosphere a bit, and soak a whole new frenetic energy… I am thinking a little bit of that “when you gonna make up your mind?” part of “The Simp.”

    But that might just be a matter of taste. Certainly plenty of songs (and ones with fans) keep a little more reserved, even keeled. I personally just felt the need for CLIMAX.

  4. Abraham says:

    Hey there dudes…

    P M S: Good questions, all. And ones that I think about often. I think it’s safe to say that just about everything on the next Baby Teeth album will have originated from this blog. But that album will be only like twelve songs, so most of these tunes — the ones that are anything less than totally burning — I think of more as exercises than anything else. Pro songwriters who are employed by publishing companies are expected to churn out only about one great song a month, so that’s my real goal… As far as which ones make the cut, well…. a lot of that has to do with what kind of response each one gets from this here community.

    James: CRITICISM…. WHAT????? Just kidding. Of course I want nothing more than for everyone to feel comfortable calling me out on stuff that they think isn’t as strong — that’s the only way I’m gonna become a better songwriter. The praise is nice, but this kind of post is what I’m really after. I think you definitely pinpointed what was wrong with the chorus — and I knew that as I was writing it, because I would walk around trying to sing the song to myself, and I would always forget how the chorus went! Bad sign. As far as posting multiple versions of a song: Well, I must confess that from time to time I think about what “Year Two” of 52 Teeth would look like. And I think that the major change would be…. while there would still be one new post each week, there would be only one new song each month. The posts would document the revising process. My main problem with the format of this blog is that it has allowed me so little time for rewriting over the past year. So, if I do re-up for year two, I would move the focus from writing to rewriting. That might actually up the interactivity factor as well.

    B B King: Yeah maybe…. but I think that if the current chorus were actually stronger to begin with, then you might not feel a need for a brand new, “Simp”-like explosion at the end. By the way, that end part of “The Simp” was completely my attempt to cash in on the Arcade Fire craze!!! Don’t tell anyone.

  5. I love the idea of devoting a whole month to just one song, with the weekly posts. That is an excellent “to-do” for 52Teeth Year II, and would indeed increase the interactivity.

  6. James Smythe says:

    Oh, year 2 sounds superb. Su-perb. I love the thought of being able to tell you what I feel about a song when it’s fresh, seeing how it develops based upon how you feel about what I feel.

    Right, you might think I’m insane with this, but bear with me. This song reminded me of You Can’t Hurry Love (Diana Ross or Phil Collins song rather than The Concretes). That constant beat, that driving lift into a chorus rather than a roar: that song has the “I need love, love” verse, then the dupe chorus – “you can’t hurry love, no you’ll just have to wait”, and both of those sections are equatable to the sections of this song. But it’s missing the”How many heartaches” bit. That’s the roar I was looking for, something that sort of trounces over the beat more than the rest of the song.


  7. Abraham says:

    P M S and James: Tightness! I am glad you guys are psyched about the direction for Year Two. It fits with my general desire to spend more time with stuff instead of just cranking it out. I am listening to the song again, and I think I hear the “You Can’t Hurry Love” thing. Maybe it could use more of a lift-off style bridge… hm.

  8. detholz says:

    This line, perhaps, is a perfect summation of every Baby Teeth song ever penned:

    “Lock me up, I don’t care
    I need you more than e’er!”

    Have to confess: the lil’ churchman in me laughed aloud at this line, “e’er” being the favorite contraction of most hymn writers of the past 150 years.

    While this lacks the bombshell quality of “Media Memory,” I feel like it comes closer to the mark of the catch-all pop song you’re aiming for. What stood out to me is the opening “riff” — I know riff-rattling isn’t typically your preferred M.O., but in this case it might eclipse the vocal writing, which is also strong.

    Thinking of it in a live band setting, I think it might pack more of a punch. Wouldn’t be averse to giving it a go!

    Onward and upward, mate. Let’s see what the uninitiated have to say (shout?) at the Bottle tonight. I will have my bottle at the ready for ANY fan who wishes to weigh in…

  9. Abraham says:

    Det Holz: Thanks for coming out in favor of this jam. I agree with you that the opening riff has some goodness to it — surfy, garage-y goodness. I think if there’s one thing I learned from Friday night’s show, it was that songs that work are those that have some space in the arrangement. And that, in the instances in which we basically just “played the demo”, there wasn’t enough space.

    Awesome reading of the lyrics…. “more than e’er”… ha ha! Maybe you were joking, maybe not… the intended lyric was “more than air.” If you weren’t joking, then it’s definitely time to bid adieu to that church job… you’ve been “too long in the healing sunshine.”

  10. detholz says:

    Golly. “Air” didn’t even occur to me.

    *opens head and stirs brain*

    I guess it’s time for me to get out of the religion business!

  11. The Bubble King says:

    Just wanted to note that I like thie air/e’er thread.

  12. Abraham says:

    I would agree with B B King… this “air/e’er” thread is what this blog is all about.

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