Song of the Day


So I’m failing at getting myself to write, and I failed at writing a book review (though I still intend to maybe get to that), but I thought I might try a song review kinda thing, hopefully once every day or so, or every day I do it, anyway.

Today’s song: Prayer to God, by Shellac, a powerful, personal song of hate, anger, and jealousy. You can listen to it on Youtube below. Strangely, this clip is just the song, with no real video component. But I think that’s better if I just want to you listen to the song, damnit.

Why I like this song:

The lyrics. The song is about a man driven to pray to god to kill two people, a current or former lover, and, presumably, her new man. It starts off with a couple of lines about his prayer, veers into murder, talks about how each of the two should die, gets angry and violent with a building and then fading coda of “Fucking kill him, fucking kill him, kill him already, kill him,” and ends with an understated line I’ll leave as a surprise. All of this in a two and a half minute song that has no chorus, instead realying on one repeating, haunting melody that builds and builds and then suddenly loses its tension without releasing it. In the meantime, the song is far from repetitive, since instruments move in and out in a way that perfectly captures the building and taking down of the song, as the narrator’s anger grows and changes before finally wearing itself out.

See, since the song is so powerful lyrically, at first I thought it didn’t have anything interesting going on with it structurally, and I was prepared to write about how I didn’t usually listen to Shellac for its lyrics, but that this song was ALL about the lyrics. But the interesting thing about this song structurally is how it has no chorus to DISTRACT from the lyrics. Its simple one-melody structure emphasizes the instrumental and vocal changes that go into the shape of the song and its story. With a simple melody, it can essentially riff, though unlike in jazz there is a lock-step plan here, a plan to drive home the song’s basic emotional content.

One last note about it before I bore you to death. (After all, if you started listening to the song while reading this, you could’ve heard it several times over already.) I haven’t mentioned Steve Albini’s vocal mastery here. I don’t think many singers could pull off such a screed of hate-filled wrath. Somehow he doesn’t come off as pretentious or overblown, as, say, a hack metal band would’ve. (I won’t name any names. You know who you are.) It’s really impressive how authentic he sounds. I can’t find anything online to really factually support this, but I saw a couple reader-commenty-type-things that claimed his wife cheated on him during the making of this song’s album, “1000 Hurts”. Is it true? I’m not sure. But listening to this song, you can certainly believe it.

P.S. This review kinda sucks. I’ll have to get better. Multiple whatevs.

Two Days Later Edit:

Just wanted to add that the musing lyric, “No particular woman,” strikes me as incredibly quirky and human.  The way that Shellac mixes in a strange lyrical sense of humor along with their generally intense lyrics is a tiny bit of genius.  Okay, off to Burger King I go.

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