At once comfortable and intriguing, “The Fault” is better than it has any right to be, and certainly better than you are imagining it could be, based on this: The William Shakes is a project established to create indie rock songs from “de-contextualized” Shakespearean dialogue. Yeah, I know. But trust me, this works amazingly well.
The mastermind here is Boston area musician Mark McGettrick. According to press material, McGettrick was inspired by David Bowie’s famous “cut-up” methodology for writing lyrics, and for whatever reason thought to apply it to the Bard. McGettrick selects a character from a Shakespeare play, isolates that character’s lines, randomly puts them back together, and then “curates” them into song lyrics. “The Fault” is based on lines spoken by the character Cassius in Julius Caesar, who among other things uttered the famous “The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” The project has yielded a four-song EP, entitled How Goes The Night?, which is coming out in February.
Back to the song itself, which is almost hypnotically powerful–all forward motion and economical guitar accents, with a cascading melody often magnetized around one central note. McGettrick has an incisive, slightly wavery voice that wanders DIY-ishly off pitch in a fetching way that somehow makes the words all the more absorbing. And what words!; and how they shine a shrewd light on what song lyrics have to do and what they don’t have to do in service of convincing music. Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter has built-in scannability (e.g., “So well as by reflection, I your glass”), his vocabulary relentless vigor; these two factors help to generate a song with ineffable backbone. As a long-time fan of song lyrics as sound versus sense, I am not bothered if I do not understand what a singer is singing or what the words actually mean. In fact, I believe that a song’s overall meaning is sometimes clearer on an abstract and intuitive level than a concrete and explainable one. Listen to “The Fault” and maybe you’ll hear what I’m talking about.
McGettrick composed and produced all songs on the EP himself, and played guitar, bass, and percussion as well. A handful of other musicians contributed, from Boston and beyond. McGettrick has been around the Boston music scene for a number of years but this appears to be his first solo recording.