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Monday, September 27, 2010

Straitjacket

I wrote "Straightjacket" in the same night I wrote the beginnings of "The Way It Is," sitting alone on my bed in Nashville, in a singular fit of creativity that has never really been matched. While the two songs have little in common sonically, they are both imbued with the melancholy of that one evening. "The Way It Is" is the tale of a young man so infected with ennui that he can't be bothered to change anything in his life. The repeated refrain: "People never change their ways/that's the way it/that's the way it."

"Straightjacket" plumbs those depths further, positing a world in which the narrator is not only trapped in a cell of their own making, but one in which they've gone and handed the keys to someone else so they can never get out. The narrator of this tune has friends, but those friends only cinch the straightjacket tighter and stand around watching him drown.

I didn't write many happy songs in Nashville, but this is probably one of the saddest. It was written in a minor key and the vocals spend much of the song slogging through the lower registers of my vocal range. Where most of my pop songs come equipped with soaring choruses, the chorus of "Straightjacket" barely lifts off the ground, opting instead for a slightly major chord progression that only serves to highlight the depressive atmosphere of the verses.

What is this song about? I don't know, really. Sadness, maybe. Amorphous frustration and doubt and angst? I had an image in my head when I wrote it that the narrator was gay and couldn't tell his friends or family and that was the straightjacket tightening around his chest, but I'm not sure now that the lyrics jive with that interpretation. There must have been something else I was thinking about. Certainly God plays a role. He shows up in the second verse as a negative impression, something to struggle against, to rage at, to howl at his balloon-like majesty, like the moon or the sun. He is ultimately rejected, but there is a price to pay for the indifference. The narrator is a witch, a pariah cinched and tossed in a river to see if he floats. Life is cruel and only the cruel survive.

"Straightjacket" was a regular staple of the Noble Three live repertoire, but we never got around to recording a proper version of it, so the only recording of this song that exists is this one-off acoustic demo I recorded with Josh Fuson at the same time as the demos for "Sing This Song," and "Our Love." It's not perfect, but there is a weary lovableness to it that I'm proud of. I'd only written the song about two days before I recorded this demo so I hadn't had the time to overwork it, or to memorize the lyric and melody (which is most obvious in the bridge, where the lyrics are a jumbled mess that don't even begin to resemble the final lyric). There is a quaver to my voice and a tentativeness that suits the subject matter. This is the sound of a man held down by the circumstances of his life; this is the sound of a man giving up.

Enjoy.


Straightjacket
Words and Music by Tres Crow

Say what you want of love
I can't have enough
Water will rush over tender eyes
Say what you want of love

Straightjacket close
from the front and to the back
and you know
all those friends you used to know
closed every latch
and threw you in the river
just to see if you float like all the rest
if you float like all the rest

So many times I have questioned God
intellect's razor's edge.
Grasping at straws just to prove I'm right
Oh, what a miserable fate.

Straightjacket close
from the front and to the back
and you know
all those friends you used to know
closed every latch
and threw you in the river
just to see if you float like all the rest
if you float like all the rest

And you see
that everyone is gone
and the memories
of everything is done
and you know
all of this was you and me

Straightjacket close
from the front and to the back
and you know
all those friends you used to know
closed every latch
and threw you in the river
just to see if you float like all the rest
if you float like all the rest

Lyrics reprinted by permission of Shire Reckoning Publishing House


2 comments:

Ben U. said...

I always loved that "quaver" in your voice on every early demo that you did. So distinctly you.

Tres Crow said...

If you loved it so much why didn't you marry it?