While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

'It's out there most days and nights, but only a fool would complain'

SwissToni asked me a while ago to guest on his weekly Earworms of The Week feature. My day in the sun is not for another month, but I’ve been thinking about earworms anyway.

You know, those songs that get stuck in you head, in either a good or a bad way. Often, the goodness or badness of a song depends on how long it loops in your head. Eye of the Tiger, for example, is a fantastic song to hear once a year, but if it gets stuck in your head for six months, it loses that Rocky/Retro/Animal Print glow.

Today I want to hand out a Career Achievement (Earworm) award to Nautical Disaster by The Tragically Hip. Press play and listen while reading the rest of the post.

For the five weeks I spent in Africa last year, I had this song stuck in my head, and I love it more today for this fact.

I didn’t fall for this song when I heard it originally. I instantly loved other songs on Day For Night like Grace Too and Thugs but for maybe a year Nautical Disaster languished on only 3 stars.

As I got more and more into the Hip, I started to read around and found out Nautical Disaster was considered one of their greatest songs. Frankly, I was shocked. I went back and listened.

And listened.

Slowly it grew in my estimation. With every listen it inched towards five stars, and then came Africa, which proved beyond doubt that my tolerance for this song is off the charts. But it’s not just about liking the song, it’s about how it stays in my head.

I think it helps that there is no chorus, so every time I fall back into the song I’m free to move around, unhindered by an Eye of the Tiger-esque chorus.

Also working in this song’s favour is the density (and perhaps opacity) meaning. The title and the middle of the song suggest it’s about a shipwreck, but after repeated listens and scrutinising the lyrics, you figure out a) the shipwreck is a dream rather than a historical reference (the first line should make this clear, but somehow it escapes people) and b) that this dream is used as an extended metaphor for the state of a relationship.

But the song is never fully unpacked, labelled and ready for the museum. It’s a living thing which, as it burrows and loops in your mind (occasionally prompting you to bark out, “Off the coast of France, Dear,” as you peel potatoes), does not disintegrate through overuse.

Like I said above, this song did not catch me on the first spin, so don’t worry if you feel like you are missing something (you did push play, didn’t you?). I think the fact it takes a couple of listens but only gets better and never gets old is down to the guitar. I’m not down with technical jargon to articulate just how the guitar parts operate, and besides, its all in the song. Listen. And listen. If it doesn’t happen. Try these…

Craig’s Top Five Tragically Hip Earworms*

Courage (For Hugh McLennan) – from Fully Completely

Apartment Song – from Trouble at the Henhouse

Gift Shop – from Trouble at the Henhouse

My Music at Work – from Music @ Work

Family Band – from World Container

*Note: These aren’t necessarily my favourite Hip songs, but they are the ones that seem to get stuck in my head the most as of Feb 2008, Nautical Disaster excluded of course.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I listen to this song every year on August 19th, it is the anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. As a Canadian myself, this song holds historical, cultural (kind of), and musical value that are all profound.

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