A Song of the Week, that’s what.
Song of the Week: Foo Fighters, “Up In Arms“
For such a short and simple song, it raises a lot of questions.
–Why does it begin in such a melancholy, dazed place?
–Why does Grohl sing this opening 50-seconds with an uncharacteristically “loose” delivery (i.e., lyrics enjamb into the next, lagging behind the song’s pace, etc.)?
–What’s with the whistling (0:51)?
–And the biggie: Why does the song stop suddenly (0:50) and transform into a fast-paced rock song? And why do the lyrics stay practically the same when this happens (wouldn’t a musical change account for a lyrical change?)?
The song’s about an on-again, off-again relationship that repeats its makeups and breakups in a predictable way. So, writing a song that musically repeats itself with a cold/hot duality makes sense. I get it. I’m onboard.
Still, it’s an odd choice for a very-pop-rock band; we love the Foo because they consistently give us exactly what we want and expect. The song works, of course, because it still offers the other reasons we love the Foo: great production and performances, self-effacing humor (my theory for the whistling), and the sense that even their sad stories have happy endings. And, of course, the melody.
I love the song for that melody, which sounds to me like an early Beatles (or even proto-Motown) tune. Dave Grohl is simply one of our best melodists, always able to place any complex idea or unexpected weirdness in an accessible, fan-friendly package. We trust him, and keep listening, because the songs are so fun. Even when they have multiple-personality disorder.
Other artists have dabbled in “alternate takes” of the same song. That is, they put the same song on the album twice with vastly different treatments.
–Wilco: “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” and “Outta Mind (Outta Sight)” – Being There
–Josh Ritter: “Wait for Love” and “Wait for Love (You Know You Will)” – Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
–And rumor has it the next Cory Branan album will have a fast and slow version of “Survivor Blues”
What are some others? Can you think of other songs with multiple personality disorder, like “Up In Arms”? Let me know!