Can a song be immediately engaging and sustainably appealing with neither a hook nor a discernible story? Apparently, yes.
With the lazy-brisk gait of a soft-rock classic, “Raking Me Over the Coals” has a winsome, timeless feeling. Russell Pollard’s easy-going tenor adds to the bygone vibe. And yet there’s a crispness in the air as well; beneath the mellow facade is a sharply constructed song, with persistent melody lines, an elusive chorus, and one well-placed, off-kilter chord change. That change—first heard at 0:43—leads both into and out of the expansive, unusual chorus section, which is comprised of two verse-like segments and finishes with a minor turn on the stand-alone title phrase. The chorus has a protracted, narrative-like feeling, so even as it does come up twice in the three-minute song, it’s hard to get a sense of repetition. This is no sing-along. A typical pop song gains its title from the most repeated word or phrase in the song, and that’s true here, but obliquely: we hear it first, idiosyncratically, at the end of the first section of the first verse (I kind of liked that, for some reason), and then the two more times in the chorus. Just three times in the whole song.
I said “narrative-like,” and I meant it: while the song has the ambling feel of a tale being told, I can decipher no through-line or event descriptions. Truth be told, the smooth and effortless-seeming music belies the title’s implication, and that’s part of the charm here too. Whomever or whatever is raking the narrator over the proverbial coals, he sounds pretty philosophical about it.
Pollard is a L.A.-based musician who has played with a number of notable indie bands over the years, including Sebadoh and Earlimart. “Raking Me Over the Coals” is a song from the band’s third album, Ownerless, which was released in June on ATO Records.
photo credit: Zoran Orlic