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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Live: "Throwing Copper"

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most devout Live fan. Sure, I like them well enough, I've heard a few of their albums, and I've even seen them live (nice, huh?). One of their songs even inspired me to create a piece of art which I later entered in a contest and got a few offers on (no, it wasn't a great piece, but hey, music inspires people to pay). Live put out their first album in the late 80's followed by another one that the general public probably still knows nothing about, but it was their breakthrough, Throwing Copper album that leads me to this retro review.

Let me start off by saying that this album has some great songs on it. It is a mostly brilliant album. Throwing Copper begins with a track called, "The Dam at Otter Creek". This song is both entertaining an unusual. It starts very softly with only a quiet guitar riff and lead singer, Ed Kowalczyk's unique voice. The lyrics would lead you to believe that this song deals with the most unfortunate death and cover up of a man. However, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, so I'll leave the interpretation up to the listener. Though the song begins modestly, it soon picks up and becomes a rock out track in the style that only Live can accomplish, with its heavy sound that, by the end is more menacing than modest. While this song didn't go on to be a radio hit, it's a perfect introduction of what's to come. "Selling the Drama" was a hit that was born from Throwing Copper and is still played on many alternative stations. In the album insert, an accompanying picture to the lyrics of this song intensifies it's mystery. A mystery is exactly what you get with this song. In all the years I've listened to it, I know all the words, but none of the meaning. The lyrics are made of of mostly analogies and antonyms. There are actually very few sentences in this song, but plenty of entertainment. It's very easy to sing along with as the melodies are pleasing and easily memorable. I don't often meet people who like Throwing Copper, but not "Selling the Drama". I believe they're appropriately paired.

"I Alone" probably remains to this day, their most famous hit. It's a killer song with great lyrics and awesome musicality, and I know it's by far, my favorite from Live. In fact, if you listen to this album and despise this song, I will question your auditory senses. These particular lyrics, like a lot of Live's lyrics, take on many religious undertones in dealings with places, figures, actions and emotions. The album insert acknowledges Kowalczyk as the lyrical mastermind, and his talents are brilliantly displayed in this track. He writes/sings, "I'll read to you here, save your eyes. You'll need them, your boat is at sea. Your anchor is up, you've been swept away and the greatest of teachers won't hesitate to leave you there by yourself chained to fate." May not read like much, but your ears should say different. It's one of their most acclaimed songs, beginning very quietly and simplistically, adding percussion in the second verse, then with all hell breaking loose into the chorus. Then just as suddenly as it came, the drama has faded back to simplicity for the verse, but refuels soon after. From then on, "I Alone" takes the same boisterous feel up until the end. If I may take you to my one Live concert flashback, "I Alone" is freakin' awesome live (this word usage getting confusing yet?) The next track, "Iris" will come at you like a surprising shock. Not only does Live grab you a few times with this track's immediate volume and instrumental transitions, they also make some interesting rhythmical choices. Nothing in weird time signatures, just unusual in the transitions;. It's a nice effect. Kowalczyk's voice is just as unique as ever in the quality of his voice (tone/timbre). This song is far from my favorite, but it's not a bad one. "Lightning Crashes" is also a fan favorite. I can definitely determine that this song is about birth and death. I also presume it deals with the circle of life. It depicts a mother giving birth to her baby; baby lives, mother dies (fact). Years later, baby grows up and is having a baby of her own; both live (logical presumption). This track is emotional and beautiful in one swoop. Not only is the story behind the song so human, but the music itself is appropriately tasteful in regards to the events it tells of. "Lighting Crashes" was dedicated to the late Barbara Lewis (1973-1993).

While Throwing Copper boasts some great tracks, "Top" is not one of them. It's an almost musically boring song with lyrics that are obscure enough to the point of wondering, "Is he just taking out some long, overdue aggression, or is he a newly reformed neo-Nazi?" A bit strange, I agree, but I'll let you ,the listener, make a decision. Apart from the meaning, it's really not a musically memorable song. I don't know the words from memory, I can't tell you what it's about, and I will admit to having skipped over this track. It's simply not my favorite. However, the next track is completely opposite in it's delivery. "All Over You" is a lyrically shorter song that has a catchy hook and is full of overall entertainment. Along with it's counterparts, "All Over You" has had tremendous airplay and is considered to be a good song by most Live fans, though it's not their most creative; It's actually pretty safe. While Kowalczyk's vocals remain heavy, the overall song is lighter than a lot of them. Your mom may even enjoy this tune.

"Shit Towne" is one song with two distinct sounds. A specific sound for the verses and a completely opposite sound for the chorus. It works to this songs advantage. It seems to be pretty cut and dry where lyrics are concerned as they describe a place I picture to be a lot like "Cheap side" in the movie A Knight's Tale; a place that's poor, dangerous, and derelict. They then claim that's where they live. I really like the verses in this song though. I feel that they paint very vivid pictures while at the same time being melodically appealing. I enjoy this track a lot, though probably wouldn't play it for the children. "T.B.D.” is a favorite song of mine on this album. If you Google "T.B.D., Live" you'll find many bloggers claiming that they know exactly what the song is about, yet every definition is different. In this case, the only fact that any of the bloggers got right about the song is that T.B.D. stands for the Tibetan Book of the Dead. There are many ideas behind the meaning of this song, which I would encourage you to Google later, but for now, here's my opinion of the song. It's one of the softest songs on the album with Kowalczyk's quiet vocals and the timid volume of the musicality. "T.B.D." does seem to take a while to get through, due to the lack of change throughout the song, but the elements which seem so constant, force you to listen to the lyrics. A good song that is both lyrically interesting and challenging.

I do not find the track "Stage" very special at all. It's pretty average lyrically and melodically. In fact, without giving it too much notation, I will say that unlike "T.B.D." this song's lack of change works to its disadvantage. While being much faster and shorter than it's predecessor, it seems to last forever. You'd be likely to skip over this one during the listening of the album. On the contrast, "Waitress" is an angry tale that is seemingly about a problem waitress doing an okay job. Apparently, Kowalczyk is highly pissed during these few minutes. His excessive use of profanity leads the listener to believe that there's more to this story than meets the ear, but we'll likely never know. The instrumentation in "Waitress" does a fantastic job of portraying the same anger. While there is nothing super unique about this song, other than the random, "happy go lucky" whistling at the end, most Live fans would probably enjoy giving this song a quick listen. Even softer than "T.B.D." is the track "Pillar of Davidson", where like other Live tracks, there appears to be more to the story than the listener is privy to. The lyrics are dark with dealings of drugs, religion, death and other elements unbeknownst to us. The melodies of the track, vocally and instrumentally, are enchanting, while Kowalczyk's vocals and one of "the two Chad’s" background harmonies enhance this song's chorus. It's a beautiful song that I tend to merely listen to rather than analyze, so please forgive the lack of remaining comments on this song, but I feel you'd do the same. Definitely check this one out, as it's sure to be one of the two quiet pleasers.

I remember the first time I heard "White, Discussion". I wasn't too sure what it was about then, and I'm not too sure what it's about now, though I highly doubt it's about white supremacy, as you may first believe. The meaning of this song will be for you to discern and contemplate, as I would not do it justice to give my interpretation. As for musicality, "White, Discussion" has an intriguing guitar melody that compliments Kowalczyk's vocal melody and ability. It's soft, yet gruff. At the end of the second verse, the song builds an immediate momentum and fury that lasts a few moments, then returns with the lyrics, "Look where all this talking got us, baby". "White, Discussion" keeps the energy up through the end of the song. It’s a great song on the album, probably one of the best, and again, it’s just as good live.

Throwing Copper was released in 1994, and 14 years later, it is just as great an album today as it was then. All the songs on this album are definitely good and most of them are even great. Some are even perfect. It’s all a matter of opinion, but I say the fact is, Throwing Copper will hold up as being one of the best albums made, ever.

Key Tracks:
1. I Alone
2. Lightning Crashes
3. T.B.D.
4. Pillar of Davidson
5. White, Discussion

9 out of 10 stars

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know this is way late but TBD does have deeper meaning. It's Tebitan Book of the Dead. An author (Aldous Huxley) was dying from cancer and his request was pumped full of LSD while on his death bed. He was the center of many rumors of his eyesight and using the Bates method to regain (some say he never really did, his wife later claims he somewhat did). That is what the song is about.