Monday, February 8, 2010

Imperial Teen -- "Room With a View" (2007)

And it's never as good
As it was in rehearsal . . .
Can we try it again?
This is a song I became obsessed with a few months ago -- I listened to it at least a couple of times every I took a bike ride. It's not always easy locating it on my last-generation iPod Shuffle, but I keep clicking until I find it.
I have this song on my iPod thanks to my local public library. A couple of years ago, I figured out how easy it was to search for CDs on the library website, reserve them, and get them delivered to my local branch -- all for free. (This doesn't make up for all the tax dollars of mine that the government has wasted over the years, but it's a start.)
After plugging in the names of all the good bands I knew into the library's search engine, I got out my trusty RollingStone Album Guide and plugged in the names of all the bands they liked but that I had never heard of. Eventually I moved on to Pitchfork and other review sites and plugged in the names of all the bands on their "top 20" and "top 50" and "top 100" lists.
Somehow I came across The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band by Imperial Teen. I had never heard of them, but I reserved the CD, imported it, and added it to my iPod. I don't have any of their other music, and I know next to nothing about the band. I do know that band member Roddy Bottum (born Roswell Christopher Bottum III, and one of the first male rock stars to "come out" and tell the world he was gay) was a member of one of my MTV-video-era favorites, Faith No More. (You kids don't remember when MTV played music videos all the time? Take my word for it -- it's true.)
You surely remember their song, "Epic," don't you?
What -- is -- it?
It's it!
What is it?
It's it!
What is it?
Here's the music video for "Epic":
We may come back to Faith No More someday, but that's enough for now -- let's get back to Imperial Teen before I get any more sidetracked.
It usually takes me some time to start liking new music, but I hate to spend time listening to music I don't know and don't like (at least don't like yet) when I could be listening to the good old stuff -- hence, my major music-related problem, which is a lack of supply of good new stuff.
I forced myself to sample the songs on this Imperial Teen CD a few times and wasn't very impressed -- most of it was a little too soft and poppy. But a couple of songs were attractive enough right off the bat that I stuck with the CD a few more times and eventually decided that about half the songs were pretty good.
"Room With A View" really sneaked up on me. It's a song that I seem to have an unlimited tolerance for. I only know about half the words, but that doesn't keep me from singing it loudly on my bike rides, which no doubt is disturbing to all the other walkers and bikers I pass.
The song is about a struggling band that is hoping for its big break -- but right now, things aren't going too well for them:
We are working so hard
And we're betting the farm
Charge it all to the card
Seventh time is a charm
Of course, those lines could apply equally to almost anyone who pulls up stakes and goes looking for new opportunities far away from home, or a family who goes into debt to get a new business off the ground -- dreaming big dreams about future success because they believe in what they are selling, but also very aware that they could end up in a very precarious position financially if those dreams never materialize.
I don't know if the title was inspired by the E. M. Forster novel (or the James Ivory movie based on that novel) or not. I do know that there are a bunch of songs with the same title by other people, so don't take shortcuts when you Google for the lyrics.
The no-words part about 3/4 of the way in is probably my favorite thing about the song -- it's great to sing along with. (Three of my kids have graduated from college in the past four years, and that means I've been treated to way too many performances by student a cappella groups. This would be an excellent song for them to perform -- especially compared to most of the crap they seem to go for.) The ascending major scales at the end of that section (played on a piano, or electronic piano) are a wonderful little touch. The song builds nicely and it's the right length -- not too long, not too short, just right.
I used the first two lines quoted above in a story I wrote some time ago. The two main characters hear the song one night, and the male character tells the female character that he rehearses for their dates -- but after the dates are over, not before. He explains that after he drops her off and is driving home, he thinks about all the nonsense he has said over the course of their time together, and how inarticulate he always thinks he has been, and he wishes he could better communicate his feelings to her. What he actually says to her is never as good at what he says in his "rehearsals" as he is driving home.
I need to go back to the story and add the third line from the song that I quote above -- "Can we try it again?" That's what the character really wants to do -- start the evening over from the beginning and edit out all the silly or clumsy things he had said or done, and explain more articulately how he feels about her -- that even though they don't know each other very well and he has no idea what she feels about him (if she feels much at all), that he has high hopes for them.
Actually, I think the character would like to go back to the very beginning of their relationship. He worries that the he has made a certain impression that he will never entirely be able to overcome -- that while he may eventually be able to relax and just be himself with this woman, it will be too late. That thought drives him a little loco -- after all, he can't rewrite their history at this point. And even if he is able to figure out exactly what he did wrong -- which is somewhat doubtful -- will she give him a real chance?
To me, that's the worst possible scenario -- figuring something important out, but too late. It's one thing to be in over your head -- you never really had a chance to succeed, so while you regret the failure, you can't really blame yourself. It's infinitely more painful to know exactly what you did wrong, but be unable to overcome your initial missteps.
Here's a link to the song on iTunes: Imperial Teen - The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band - Room With a View It's not the best 30 seconds of the song, I'm afraid.
Here's a link to the entire song on Lala:
Here's a YouTube video of a live performance of the song:
It's not very good. (If you find a better version on YouTube or elsewhere, please let me know and I will substitute it.)