Monday, September 11, 2006

Listen Up: In the Clouds

Growing up in the 70s, my first musical memories are all of disco and muskrat love. Most of my adult life has been spent cultivating taste and conquering the impulses that tell me the finest moment in human musical achievement is “More than a Woman.”

So when I say that Under the Influence of Giants is a Bee Gees for a new generation, it is not necessarily a compliment. Even though it is totally true.

The song “In the Clouds” is a perfect example of the band’s particular form of retro musical power. Striking the bad boy pose with the line, “I like the morning after pill, hello!” the song follows up with these sweet lyrics.

“I want to f___ you in the fire, yeah.

I want to hold you til you breathe no more.”

Nothing quite says, "I love you," like immolation and suffocation. You would think that if the singer finds a partner who doesn’t mind being on the receiving end of such affection, the rest of the song would be just a series of joyful proclamations. Hooray! I found someone as messed up as me and somehow, some way, we are perfect for each other.

But no… instead we get to the chorus and we hear:

“Let me have my doubts.

Let me work it out.

Don’t you take it personal.”

So, after a rousing evening of fire f___ing and erotic asphyxiation, you get to hear “And on top of all that, I’m just not into you.” Niiiiice.

The only way a band like this can get away with saying something like this if the dark edge of the lyrics is mixed with a heckuva lot of musical charm. And, like Outkast’s meditation on punctuation in “Hey Ya!” (“Don’t want to meet your momma / just want to make you comma”), Under the Influence of Giants somehow manages to present something offensive with a cheer and a groove that makes you not care at all.

The only thing that could save lyrics like this is some sweet music, and, indeed, the music rises to the occasion. A funky, thumping beat drives the song and practically transforms you into an extra in the cast of “Zoolander.” It makes you want to dance and prance, to primp and pose. Decades of cultivated taste just wash away as the doom-doom-doom of disco fills the senses.

So I find myself in a position where I wind up saying, “Yeah, it has offensive posturing, and yeah, I can see how it could offend someone. But, man, this song rocks!” Because it does. Besides, rock and roll is all about offending sensibilities whether you are Gene Simmons offending mothers everywhere or Phil Collins offending fans of Gene Simmons. The best thing to do it just sit back and enjoy the ride.

There was a real energy in the music of the seventies that has been mixed up with the cultural trappings of the decade. The music of Under the Influence of Giants manages to capture the essence of that style of music while separating it from the bell bottoms and flared hair of the time. The song is exciting, vibrant, and definitely worth a listen.

Under the Influence of Giants homepage

Under the Influence of Giants MySpace page (listen to In the Clouds and other music here)

In the Clouds – iTunes

Under the Influence of Giants –

Under the Influence of Giants – iTunes

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