Angry Young Machines

This week’s song, “Angry Young Machines,” was inspired by a trip to the Art Institute that Lara and I took over the holidays.  We checked out the new Modern Wing, which was beautiful.  Some of the best real estate in the wing is the stairwell landings.  Each landing frames a sculpture against a choice view of the Chicago skyline.  On one such landing, we saw the H.C. Westermann sculpture, “Angry Young Machine.”  You can see it  here.  Because Lara and I are both dorks, we each wrote this phrase in our respective notebooks, thinking it would make a good title for some artistic venture.  (Lara paints and writes fiction.)  I wanted to claim it first, so that night, I cobbled a song together.  I am forever the competitive older brother, I’m afraid.

The chords and presentation here are strictly old-school, representing the time I spend at the piano just playing old show tunes or ragtime arrangements out of a fakebook.  I’ve always been in awe of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Hoagy Carmichael, etc., and that’s whom I’m ripping off here.  Our narrator, once again, is the midlife-crisis-prone B.S. Lewis.  He laments that, while he’s no longer angry or young, he’s still a machine — but a machine gone awry and turned against itself.  His anger has been replaced by “a low grade of self-loathing biofuel,” as he puts it.  (Working in terms like “biofuel” helps him feel like he’s still cutting-edge.)

The chorus borrows its melody from Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger.”  And lots of my rhythmic cadences and vocal intonations come from Axl Rose, specifically the Use Your Illusion classic “Civil War.”  Don’t know to what I can attribute my recent GN’R obsession, but it’s alive and kicking.

7 Responses to “Angry Young Machines”
  1. Look man, I don’t need your CIVIL WAR.

    Yeah this is a hot (if sleepy) cut. Speaking of “sleepy,” “Two Sleepy People” by Hoagy Carmichael is one of my all-time favorites (I really wish, A, that the piano player at the old-man’s piano-bar where I sing would learn it, and B, that I had a female vocalist to sing alongside for it, but that is asking way too much I fear). I’m even feeling some Gershwin swing here (but also very much feeling the “Goodbye Stranger”), it’s a beautiful meld. A MIND-MELD!

    I too composed a song on the way home tonight! As in, almost a whole song. That has barely ever (if ever) happened before to me. It has been a good MMX so far.

  2. Abraham says:

    P M S: Wow — you sing regularly at an old-man piano bar? This is wonderful information. The plot thickens. I will treasure your Gershwin comparison for at least the rest of the week…. thank you.

    Congrats on your quick composition. MMX overdrive.

  3. Every single Tuesday night between late November 2008 and late March 2009 I (and most of the time, several friends of mine) would head to this sweet joint called the HideAway and I/we would sing along with Piano Bob. He loves having us sing. He sometimes calls me at home to tell me we should come out. After softball started, we didn’t get in there as much (maybe three to five times since we stopped going every single week), but we had a big crowd in there the other week, mostly people in town for the holidays (it’s the best around the holidays because of course I can wail on “Blue Christmas” or “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” or whatever other holiday fare). Anyway yeah, the HideAway rules, but I think we all sorta got burned out on it just a little bit. I know I did. But I still go there when the opportunity presents itself, and if it’s Piano Bob ticklin’ on a Tuesday night, he’ll definitely let me sing (he usually insists on it, actually).

  4. Abraham says:

    Sounds like quite a groovy scene, as Rick James might say.

  5. Saint Aubini says:

    You’re the only song writer I know who can write two separate themes in one linear piece. This song starts out with a gentle melody you might expect an candy stripped soda jerk to hum to his dame under the old willow tree. Then it leads to a hopeful crescendo that made me think of “Cheers” for some reason. Yet, the lyrics are rife with self-doubt, loathing, deprecation, etc. Be careful, I think this B.S. Lewis is looking more and more familiar…P.S. Levitan

  6. Abraham says:

    I like the image of the soda jerk singing to his dame under the willow tree. I’m sure they’d have enjoyed watching an episode of Cheers together too, had the technology (television, Ted Danson, etc.) been available. As for any similarities between B.S. Lewis and P.S. Levitan, that is a subject for my biographer.

  7. Hassan Bin al-Ghruvi says:

    Abraham has seized Updike’s torch, a year after the novelist’s death, as Rabbit is reincarnated into B.S. Lewis. And the Supertramp riff is just icing on the suburban cake.

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