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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Music - The Pretender (Jackson Browne)

I don't write much about music on this weblog. Which is a shame, since it's one of the "four" topics I had in mind when I chose the name of the weblog (there's another source for the name "Four Realities" as well, which I suspect maybe three readers at most get). But I do loves me some good music, even if I'm still struggling to find a way to write about it in a way that'll be entertaining to me and to whatever audience this weblog has (which ain't much...). I'm going to try to post something on a musical theme at least once a week. Feel free to skip it if you come here for the comic book stuff...

Anyway, unable to sleep, I've spent the last hour listening to "The Pretender" by Jackson Browne. I'm not really a big fan of Browne, mostly familiar with his songs that have gotten radio play (songs listed on his Greatest Hits album I recognize are "Doctor My Eyes", "Take it Easy", "Stay", "The Pretender", "Boulevard" and "Running on Empty". All of which I really like. Damn, I gotta buy this thing). But I have a copy of "The Pretender" since it's on the soundtrack to MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS, a movie I'm abnormally fond of, and it's on one of the mixtapes I made to listen to in the car (yes, I need to get a CD player for the car...). It came up earlier today, and for the first time I think I finally reached the age where I understood the song.

I've been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it's the wink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again
I mean, I guess in the back of my head I had an inkling, but mostly I just liked the imagery and the rhythm. Browne paints a nice word picture with the, setting a vivid scene for the story he's telling in an oblique way. That's what I like in a lot of Bob Dylan's songs, and it's nice to see it in another source.

Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the ice cream vendor
But I've always known there was more going on in there. There had to be, with this bit serving as the turning point:
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the Pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there
But I guess the death of idealism is a factor that escapes you when you're younger. Not even on the radar. But I think I'm finally getting it.

I'm going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Which I guess all sounds pretty awful, and I don't mean it in that way. I don't consider myself defeated, I'm not that cynical, but I'm kind of glad that I at least understand those concepts better now than I did a few years ago.

And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
True love, though, that's a concept I still struggle with. Okay, maybe in some respects I am that cynical.

Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

I'm sure I'll get over it in a day or so, but for now this is probably my favourite song in the history of music. I suppose it's a little perverse to revel in something so depressing, but I really do value art that can evoke a mood, and depression is probably the most difficult, delicate and delicious mood to capture. To get this much raw emotion into a song isn't easy, and you have to admire it when it comes along, no matter how many years it takes for it to all come together in your head.

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