I have a long established rule with music. Never try to figure out what the lyrics mean. In most cases this extends to a sub-rule, not always followed: never read the lyrics if they are provided in the sleeve of the record. This is because a long time ago I mistakenly read the lyrics to the songs on a Ride album, an experience which turned me off them completely - in an instant. Also, I’m still trying to deal with the trauma of having listened a little too closely to the words of a recent New Order song. Blue Monday is perhaps on of the best pop songs ever written, but jaysus Sumner can write some duff lines.
There are many exceptions of course, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Will Oldman come to mind, where it is actually worth dwelling on the words being sung. I know Hugh Green gives some thought to lyrics too, but seems to do so in the knowledge that the opacity of the lyrics can lead to any number of interpretations and that this opacity or open-endedness of meaning can provide greater riches for a listener who is not obsessed with trying to resolve the literal meaning of what the songwriter ‘meant’ when he wrote the lyrics.
Sometimes words are simply an additional sound element which cannot be separated out from the construction of the song or interpreted independently of it, and at other times a singularly poetic lyric seems to carry much of its force in the very ambiguity it creates.
Today, however, I broke my rule while thinking about this post on Loreli, a track on The Cocteau Twin’s 1984 album Treasure. I listened to Treasure almost constantly sometime around 1989, to the point where I seemed intimately familiar with almost every note. I was studying at the time and I found it a great way to concentrate. Because I didn’t think of the words being sung as having any specific meaning I thought of them as just another sound in the mix. This allowed me to enjoy the layering of the music without being distracted by any particular sentiment being expressed. The words which sounded more like yelp, like an actor’s exaggerate mouth exercises designed to get out the right vowel sounds, didn’t matter. Not caring if there were real words in therer also meant it was perfect for repeated listening. For me anyway.
So when I went looking at the lyrics today I can’t say that I am disappointed. They’re gibberish of course, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter. It is the combination of words and how they are sung that matters. Also, there are a couple of lines which I don’t think are so bad….
We’re covered by the sacred fire
When you come to me, you come to me broke
Guilty girl, Guilty boy
Get to make out
Him chocked with mousse
Lift up your toes
In my mouth
And we can make love
And we can go
Him chocked with mousse? What was it, strawberry or chocolate?
The whole reason for going back to Loreli in the first place is because Frazer’s vocal track is being used by The Field on ‘The More That I Do’, from his recently released Yesterday and Today album.
I like The Fields I have to say and I only found out about this track after reading Darragh’s post on Asleep on the Compost Heap (and I’ll admit I only came across his blog when he left a comment here – so thanks for popping by).
Anway, here is The Field’s The More That I Do, followed by Loreli, from Treasure.