Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Outside the Future

I've made no bones about the fact that I am a fan of Urge Overkill, specifically everything after their underrated Stull EP, which is why I tend to post so many lyrics of theirs. It might be because despite being a rock n roll band that parodied excess before succumbing to it, one of the things they got really good at with parts of Stull that continued for the rest of their career is how strong heir lyrics became.

Unfortunately, none of their albums include the lyrics in them (probably to help maintain the illusion) but the lyrics when paid attention to are often quite good.

For instance, listen to this song called "Tequila Sundae" (which is a pretty jokey title up until you read the lyrics) without looking at the lyrics below.




Now try it with the lyrics and compare how they contrast with the music:




Tequila Sundae
Music and Lyrics by Urge Overkill


Got no time for stimulation
Daylight runs and runs for hours
Heavy cold sweat under the black sun shower
Under the silicon valley sun

Flattery will get you nowhere
Oh my God, I didn't wanna hurt no one
In a false sleep, in need of stimulation
I wish the z-ball was the sun

She was gone (I believe her)
Gone (Underneath the)
A tequila sun

She was gone (I believe her)
Gone (I believe her)
A tequila sun

Now that I need her (Tequila sun)
She's off in the sun
With someone
With someone

Melt away!

Put yourself outside the future
Silicon sun rising above the ground

She was gone (I believe her)
Gone (Underneath the)
A tequila sun

She was gone (I believe her)
Gone (Underneath the)
A tequila sun

Now that I need her (Tequila sun)
She's off in the sun
With someone
With someone

She was gone (I believe her)
Gone (Underneath the)
A tequila sun

She was gone (I believe her)
Gone (I believe her)
I believe that woman

Now that I need you (Tequila sun)

Don't melt away!

Got no need for stimulation
Let the cheeba be the sun.




Not quite as simple as it first came across, no? On the surface it sounds like another rock song about glorifying self-destruction and excess, but instead becomes a lament on losing what is really important and replacing it with material things.

The usage of "Silicon Sun" and the replacement of the real sun with drink and drugs contrasts the artificial sun of the singer's desire with whoever "she is" that is off in the real sun. To me, that is the most interesting part of the song. She's off in the sun? She's in a better place? Is she dead? Did she find someone new? I guess it doesn't make a difference in the subject's mind since it's all the same to him. Now he's got nothing and fills it with substances that won't fill anything at all as the last line implies.

But to me, it's the title that is really clever. Tequila Sunrise is a well known drink, but he never once says it in the song. Tequila Sundae instead implies a desert, a treat, one that can melt away like the lyrics say. But in the song, what he wants to melt away are his memories of "her" and by the end he realizes what he lost and changes his mind. However, as the final lines imply, that's simply to late. He's filled the deep hole in himself with junk instead.

Contrasting the drink with the real sun is a great comparison for both the song, and a deeper level to the straightforward lyrics.

But what I like the most is how deceptively simple the lyrics are. They are essentially about a man drinking himself to forget, which is a popular topic in music, just as the similarly named "Tequila Sunrise" by the Eagles is. But what it is about is a bit more than that. Urge Overkill had always parodied the rock n roll lifestyle of sex, drugs, and alcohol, before, but this is the first song that doesn't feel like that at all. The song treats addition like the pit it is, but with a small inkling of hope that there is more than the artificial sun the singer lives his life by. It aims a bit higher than similar songs of its style.

It also helps that it has a kicking riff that goes great with the dark tinge of the lyrics. Sonically, the band has rarely ever sounded tighter than on this track, which goes well with the desperate state of the subject of the lyrics.

At some point instead of just being about carefree fun and optimism like Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys, rock music became entrenched in love of excess, lust, fatalism, and nihilism, until it became the grey mush of forgetful nothing it is nowadays. Bands like Urge Overkill wisely took the things rock bands made important and shone a light on how stupid, how dangerous, (and eventually) how evil, they actually are. Fun is fun, but the line is there for a reason, and patting yourself on the back for stumbling over it and off a cliff is not cool or rebellious, it's suicidal.

Or maybe it's just me. Either way, I'm glad songs, and bands, like this exist. Keeps me away from modern radio and away from all the pop songs celebrating self-destruction. I'm under no illusion that suicide is is preferable to life, and as someone who has stared the devil in the face and has no desire to ever see it again.


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