Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Music To Write By: Flyleaf's "City Kids"

Why Listen? For a collaborative use of form that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts; an example of the importance of contrast.

Bands have a hard time replacing charismatic frontmen -- or, in the case of hard-rock quintet Flyleaf, frontwomen. While helmed by manic pixie screamo grrrl Lacey Mosley, the band managed to crack the Billboard charts, propelled in no small amount by her ability to sound entranced, ecstatic, fragile, and downright aggressive all within the space of a three-and-a-half minutes. So how does a group compensate when a singer with such range suddenly chooses family life over the rigors of the road? You pick the best replacement you can (in the case of Flyleaf, Vedera's Kristen May) and alter the form of your art to adapt to your new competencies.

Though hardcore fans of Flyleaf have kvetched over the switch, the song "City Kids" shows the effectiveness of the band's sonic strategy. A coming-of-age anthem penned by guitarist Sameer Bhattacharya, it muses over lost love and the transmuting power of time, buoyed by delicate chords, pulsing percussion, and May's pure tones:
Walking through the city we grew up in.
Everything has changed again.
I remember fighting to believe in
Truth and how the good will win.

But we were young, almost in love,
Too scared to reach out for what was.
The sweet, steady sound, though, gives way at the end of the chorus when the amplifiers kick into overdrive and bassist Pat Seals looses a raging hardcore scream that slowly fades into a tortured wail. A jarring contrast? You bet. But it also fits both the disenchanted subject matter and the sound the band's former siren helped foment. It's an instructive approach. Few writers can tackle all areas of the crafts in every way they want to. Perhaps Flyleaf's creative use of form could serve as a model.


Jim Murdoch said...

When I started reading this my first thoughts were of the band Marillion. They’re the most successful band to emerge from the UK’s 1980s neo-progressive rock scene and I was a huge fan right from the jump. At first they got compared to Gabriel era Genesis and, yes, there’s more than a touch there but after the first few singles they started to find their own sound and this was in a big way due to the lead singer Fish. When he left after three superb albums everyone expected the band to fold—I suppose a bit like when Waters left Pink Floyd—but they didn’t. They hired a new singer, Steve Hogarth (H to his friends) and went on. The first two albums felt like business as usual to be honest which surprised me because Fish was the songwriter but starting with This Strange Engine in 1996 Hogarth started to impose more of himself and took the band in a completely different direction. There’re now been twelve albums with Hogarth at the helm. Fish has continued being Fish. He’s released ten albums to date. I buy his sight unseen and never been disappointed. I did that with Marillion too for a while but they lost me with marillion.com. I never write to music with lyrics anymore. I used to be able to but now I find it too distracting so you can imagine how overjoyed I was to hear that Pink Floyd’s new (and surely final) album will be mostly instrumental tracks.

Loren Eaton said...

Hiya doing, Jim? Good to hear from you.

Yeah, it's always interesting when the singer splits from a band. Lacey Mosley (now Lacey Sturm) hasn't released a solo album yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if she does.

I also don't write to music with lyrics. (I write to a gray-noise generator most of the time.) But I find that songs with lyrics tend to get my proverbial motor running to write.