Friday, September 12, 2014

Music To Write By: Model Engine's "Scarred But Smarter"

Why Listen? For an über-literary breakup song that simultaneously marries complication and clarity.

The phrase "thinking man's post-grunge" might seem oxymoronic, but if it does, you've obviously never listened to the music of Jeremy Post. Of course, that wouldn't be surprising. Post helmed two bands in the mid-to-late nineties (the idiosyncratically named Black Eyed Sceva and Model Engine), but never managed to find much commercial success. Some might attribute that to the fact that Post's lyrics made him sound as if he were a poet born in the wrong century. He liked to write about everything from 19th century French philosophers ("Comte's Perspective") to his internal thought process when clasping hands with an AIDS-infected drug addict ("Handshake") to a lyrical description of a street in Hamburg's red-light district ("Reeperbahn"). Not your typical subject matter, and few tunes illustrate his writing chops as well as "Scarred But Smarter" from Model Engine's The Lean Years Tradition.

An alternately pensive and aggressive breakup song, "Scarred But Smarter" is stippled with unconventional verse structure, complicated wordplay thick with assonance and antonyms, and allusions to John Keats, George Orwell, and Pontius Pilate. It's enough to keep a coffee-swilling undergrad Lit student happily occupied for most of an evening. Yet Post didn't get so caught in his craft that he forgot the virtues of simplicity. The final verse lays his theme out plain as day:
It's not
That I feel good. It's that I
Still can feel. That's good,
And that's all
That's good
For now.
Few can marry complication and clarity so well. Here's to hoping that the now-retired Post will one day deign to pick up guitar and pen again.


Unknown said...

I know this is an old post and, chances are no one will ever see this, but I love this song and I love Model Engine. I've been trying so hard to find any trace of them. I would fly to California just to sit down and have lunch with Jeremy Post and pick his brain a while.
The Lean Years Tradition has become one of the most important musical influences on my life, without doubt.

Loren Eaton said...

One of my lifelong regrets is that Jeremy Post hasn't done anything with music since The Lean Years Tradition. Such an immensely interesting album, and afterward there was … nothing. I don't think anyone ever thought he'd become a mainstream musician, but if you ever get a chance to see him in the Golden State, let me know: I'll buy a ticket, too.