Wednesday, 2 May 2012

31 Songs - Song 7

Song 7 - Frightened Rabbit - 'My Backwards Walk'

Continuing on the '31 Songs' journey it might not be very surprising to regular readers that I've chosen a Frightened Rabbit song as one which means something to me.  What may be surprising is that it is this song.

'My Backwards Walk' is taken from Frightened Rabbit's second album, 'The Midnight Organ Fight', an album so drenched in post break-up emotion that even Sigmund Freud would have a hard time.  'My Backwards Walk' is the heart wrenching admission from lead singer Scott Hutchinson that a relationship isn't working or even worse is over and despite that knowledge not being able to move on physically or emotionally.

The lyrics to this track are like sheer poetry.  Firstly conveying the feeling that one other person has become such a part of your life that you can't think straight without them; "...filling in the blanks and gaps.  And when I write them out they don't make sense, I need you to pencil in the rest".  There's another line in the song, remaining on the theme of drawing/writing, which very simply illustrates that connection we make with an other which can seem, at the time, unbreakable; "I done drawn a line between you and me".

What I particularly like about that last line, is the preceding line which starts the verse, "I'm working on drawing a straight line".  That to me emphasises the effort that the antagonist, and humans in general, put into relationships in order to make them work.  Try and draw a straight line, right now, with no ruler.  It's hard isn't it.  Now think how long you'd have to practice that, the time consuming solo nature of that task, to get it right.  That straight line illustrates the direct bond between two people, straight from one to the other, without any diversions and joins along the way.  That kind of bond takes time and for me the beauty of that line, is that it makes the coming fall even harder.  I also think that this song speaks to men more than women.  Maybe it's because it's lead singer Scott Hutchinson that's singing it, and it is autobiographical, but I think that, for the most part, men have to work harder on relationships than women.  I'm not going to delve into the psychology behind why, maybe it's a primal thing, maybe it's a symptom of the 21st century where we are not in touch with our emotions, but I think the line "I'm working on drawing a straight line" embodies the effort and soul searching that men do to fully commit themselves to a relationship. 

One of the reasons that I am so fond of this song the emotion that so evident drips of every word.  I've talked before about how for music to really strike a chord with us it has to connect on an emotion level.  This song does this with me, but in a strange backwards way.  I'm lucky enough to only have experienced one side of the emotion portrayed in this song, that feeling of love and connection.  Thankfully, I've never had the fall, the knowledge that it's over but that you can't move on (at least not since I was 15, and I got over that pretty quickly).  Yet despite that, it's the ridiculous amount of love that I have for my partner, that I can understand and empathise with the second half of this song.  It almost if you like serves as a warning, a reminder that despite how we currently feel now, things can change and fall apart.  We see it happen all around us, people break up, divorce, grow apart.  Knowing that can happen should be the biggest reason to keep working on drawing that straight line.

Lyrically the direction changes with the second half of the song, as the realisation sinks in that things are not right.  "I'm working on erasing you, just don't have the proper tools" conveys the hopelessness of the task of moving on, and equally that glimmer of hope that the 'straight line' that we've drawn can be erased, although drink may not be the best tool to use!

I love songs with lyrics that are not literal; little clever word plays that upon repeat listens revel their true colours.  My favourite verse in 'My Backwards Walk' is the fifth one, which is full of just that kind of songwriting.  "I'm working hard on walking out.  Shoes keep sticking to the ground.  My clothes won't let me close the door.  These trousers seem to love your floor."  Brilliant isn't it.  The picture in my head is complete.  A girl's bedroom (optional pink wallpaper), a guy standing at the door rooted to the spot, the girl lying on the bed.  His mind is telling him this isn't a good idea, his dick is telling him otherwise.  Cut scene.  Zoom back to the pair on the bed and the faded jeans lying cast off passionately in a last fling of regret.  Whilst the first couple of verses made us picture the emotional connection, those last two lines of the fifth verse are all about the sheer carnal sexual attractions that too often rule.

The last line (last mention of the lyrics, promise!) sums up everything about this song.  "You're the shit and I'm knee deep in it", is as brilliant a realisation about doomed love as I've ever heard.

Musically the song is pretty simple.  A repeated guitar riff underpins the rhythm, and scattered chords play over the top.  There's no need for anything more to be honest, and it's only the last thirty seconds that are treated to the usual higher tempo associated with Frightened Rabbit.

In my opinion one of the true marks of a great songwriter and story teller, is being able to make you feel emotions you've never experienced first hand.  In 'My Backwards Walk' Frightened Rabbit do exactly that.

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