i’ve always loved john cage’s 4’ 33”. not so much because of the way it conveys the relative status and ultimate impossibility of silence itself but for the way in which the audience come to create the piece in some measure, they actively engage it’s principle through performance.
i liked the way david byrne always sang as if he was outside looking in – a kind of anxious, disinterested (unpoetic) poetry of the mundane and absurd.
i still get a weird thrill when i hear kylie minogue’s ‘can’t get you out of my head’. it is a kind of pure pop tautology – it puts it’s addictive primary hook precisely where you can’t get it out of your head and then it tells you so…..along with other aspects of her person, i just find that sexy.
steve malkmus is particularly good at splicing his lyrics with little asides as to the artifice of the song itself – occasionally he just steps out of it altogether and waves at you from the sidelines. ‘stereo’ is an obvious point of reference but it’s usually listening to ‘gold soundz’ when he announces, at precisely the point you know it’s coming, that they are ‘coming to the chorus’ that i usually fall off my stool or spit museli all over my lap laughing.
a lot of hip hop utilizes a kind of self-reflexive narration. the rapper’s flow articulating the very fluency and originality of the flow itself in a self-congratulatory loop. in ‘twice the first time’ saul williams ruminates on hip hop’s genetic connection to the slave song - imploring the beat (as a cipher for the burden of black american history), to stop just as it drops back in. brilliant.
i often come back to analogies with painting. i think of lyrics like recognizable objects or motifs on a canvas, a window into somewhere else. there is something in all the above and an attempt in my own recent songs, to bust the window in some sense. the song takes you on a journey with no essential momentum outside of itself and the moment it occupies in time. it acknowledges the artifice of the construction, self conciously taking apart its conventions and received paradigms whilst at the same time reveling in their peculiar characteristics and intrinsic pleasures.