Longstanding and/or thorough readers of these virtual pages may have noticed that for all the details I cover in reviews, I don’t comment all that often on lyrics. There’s a simple reason: I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to the words in a song. Which may be strange, but I guess I just approach a song as sound, in which case the words too are more “sound” to me than “story.”
Every now and then, however, lyrics just start rising to the surface, without my making any effort to notice them. This is almost always a sign of a good song, and (oddly? logically?) it almost always happens with songs in which the words end up being pretty much inscrutable: i.e., I finally notice words and even so I don’t know what they mean.
Anyway: “Change the Channel” turned out to be that kind of song; as I kept listening, I began to notice the lyrics, which scoot along with a lively sort of insouciance, matching the music’s peppy, concise vibe. The sing-song-y landscape, full of descending melody lines and agile bass playing, is reminiscent to me of early Talking Heads, minus the nerdy anxiety. Manwomanchild’s master mind David Child is more 21st-century chill than new-wave angsty, but his words still push their way forward, many offering the bonus of perfect rhythmic scanning:
We are the workshop elves
The ones who went back to the scene of the crime
I’m at the end of my rope
Just like a joke that nobody wrote
I tried to make you a star, but it’s hard
And the project got the best of me
These lyrics offer the additional pleasure of monosyllabicism (to coin an awkward term): most are humble, one syllable words. This is harder to do than it looks. Completing an increasingly delightful package here are the backing vocals, which often involve same-note harmonizing but over time expand into appealingly lackadaiscal intervals, as if Child is making up his vocal chart along the way. When he breaks into what sounds for all the world like a Tom Petty imitation around 3:02, that seems even more likely.
“Change the Channel” is a song from the second Manwomanchild album, Awkward Island, which was released at the end of June. You can listen to the whole album via Bandcamp, and buy it there too, for just $5. Thanks to David for the MP3.