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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

In Despair, or in Cahoots?

They’ve been called “the drinking man’s Coldplay,” but Elbow are in a league beyond that much more famous British pop/rock band. (As Brian Boyd wrote when Elbow won the Mercury Prize last year for The Seldom Seen Kid: “A band such as Coldplay will happily confess to you that they put filler on their albums in the knowledge that there are enough big, anthemic songs around the filler that no one will really notice or care. Chris Martin has fessed up to ‘borrowing’ from Elbow’s Grace Under Pressure song to help him with the writing of Fix You.” Listen to those two songs one after the other, and Coldplay’s debt becomes remarkably obvious.)

So please, let me indoctrinate you into the greatness that is Elbow. Here’s a link to a BBC video Brendan’s sister Aileen posted to Facebook yesterday:

Oh, kiss me like the final meal / Yeah, kiss me like we die tonight

Doesn’t it make you feel happy to be alive?

Music can really inspire me when I write. It sets the mood in a scene, of course–I used plenty of Nina Simone lyrics in Mary Modern, and my Petty Magic heroine sings a wistful Berlin cabaret tune, Irgendwo auf der Welt (“Somewhere in the World”), during a pub session. The best lyrics inspire as well, perfectly evoking a scene with only a handful of words. Take these lyrics from Fugitive Motel:

Curtains stay closed
But everyone knows
You hear through the walls in this place
Cigarette holes for every lost soul
To give up the ghost in this place

It’s all there–the despair, the isolation, the claustrophobic shabbiness of a highway lodge advertising cable TV and ceiling mirrors in every room.

Or take this single line from Switching Off:

Early evening June, this room and a radio play

Can’t you just see the fluttering curtains, the trees outside casting dancing shadows on the unmade bed? Can’t you just feel the cool breeze wafting through the window and the tinny voices coming from the radio on the dresser? The character in the song re-lives these memories so vividly that it puts the listener there in that moment as well. Switching Off has another of my favorite lines:

You, the only sense the world has ever made

You can see why this music makes me want to be a better writer.

1 Comment to In Despair, or in Cahoots?

  1. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    April 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    OH MY GOSH! You know where I have to go now. To Amazon to order the CD. But listening to the CD won’t be the same as watching them. I loved that they were all having such a wonderful time singing. It made me happy.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.