Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Real Bright Side

When was the last time a song grabbed you by the collar and said ‘LISTEN’? If the answer to that is ‘You’re beautiful’ by James Blunt, please stop reading. If the answer is ‘Mr. Brightside’ by The Killers, then hang on. There was something in that call. An out-of-control quaver in the voice that unfortunately could not do enough to differentiate itself from the fifty other quavering male voices clogging up the charts. The lyrics didn’t help much either. It did sell some 50 million copies though. So what? I predicted that their next album would crash through the floor, and not only that, the first single would be an exact replica of ‘Mr. Brightside’, and would end up being bought only by the president of the Killers’ fan club and the band members’ parents.

I thought I was right too. For the first fourteen seconds of ‘Read my mind’, a synth lays down a sort of ocean texture. Then, just before you write it off completely and wait for the next White Stripes album, a cymbal crashes and the singer gets right down to it.
‘On the corner of Main Street, just tryin' to keep it in line, you say you want to move on and, you say I'm falling behind. Can you read my mind?’ It sounds like a challenge. By the time he’s told you that he ‘never really gave up on breaking out of this two-star town’ you realize that you’re squarely in young Bruce Springsteen territory, with all its defiance and world-weariness and clichés that become resonant because they are sung a certain way.

The singer starts off cool but keeps getting more and more worked up as the song progresses. Finally, wrapped up in his own story, he loses his bearings. His voice loses the melody altogether, and with the band holding the tune tightly in the background, he simply starts chanting loudly ‘I don’t mind if you don’t mind, coz I don’t shine if you don’t shine, put your back on me, put your back on me…’ It sounds awful on paper, but it works so well on record, and is so damn exhilarating, that The Killers actually manage to seem like a band with something to say and not just a pose. It ends with the most Springsteen-like non-Springsteen lines I’ve ever heard - ‘the stars are shining like rebel diamonds cut out of the sun, can you read my mind?’

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