Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 38
Tues. Mar 5, 2013
On the way to Long Beach, like all couples do, my wife and I have the discussion, what are we going to listen to in the car? The rule in our family is whoever is driving, is the one who selects the music. But still, that doesn’t mean I’m going to subject my wife to the electronic musings of Aphex Twin. I know she’s not a fan. So usually our conciliation CD is Cat Power’s Sun, but I wanted to hear something, as Rob Gordon famously said in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity– I could just ignore. But then I saw Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard’s solo album Former Lives and I suggested, let’s hear this. That was probably the best choice I made on Saturday because as soon as my wife pressed play, I heard this lovely acapella “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby” and I was hooked.
“It seemed like an appropriate curveball to start the record,” is what Benjamin Gibbard told Rolling Stone the reason he began his first solo album with “Shepherd’s Bush.” And he was right; “Lullaby” was the perfect song to start off Former Lives. If you’re ever feeling down and need a burst of lyrical vigor to liven up your day, I urge you to spin Benjamin’s “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby.” While many critics claim that the first track on Gibbard’s Former Lives LP, sounds barbershop quartet-esque, I believe since Benjamin must have been enraptured by the Brian Wilson spark of lyrical inspiration because, “Shepherd’s Bush” sounds like a 21st Century Beach Boys inspired acapella lullaby.
Gibbard told Consequence of Sound how “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby” came to life when he said, “We were on tour, and I was playing in Shepherd’s Bush. I found myself taking advantage of the technology in my pocket. It’s like a song-oid; it’s a ditty or a sketch; it’s a sketch of a song. I just thought it would be a hoot to start the record out with. I think it’s kind of playful and not very in-keeping with what people know or think about when they think about the kind of records I’m tied to. Necessity is probably a little extreme but certainly out of intent. That was the version I recorded in Shepherd’s Bush, so that’s the version on the record. There’s really no reason going back to it and trying to make it something more than what it is.”
When asked if there was a geographical theme to Former Lives, Benjamin responded by saying, “I think placing songs in physical spaces that people see in their mind’s eye is a mechanism that I use often because it’s specific. When I sing, “Duncan, where have you gone?” [on the record’s opener “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby”], that song is a musing about a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and he’s in London so, of course, I placed Duncan in London. So, in that sense, a geographical location helps tell the story. And I literally recorded “Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby” on my iPhone. People see me walking through Shepherd’s Bush, like a lunatic, singing into my phone.”
Although “Shepherd’s Bush” was inspired by Gibbard’s friend Duncan, we shouldn’t read Benjamin’s Former Lives as lyrical diary entries when Gibbard explained, “The songs are orphans. They didn’t fit on Death Cab records, but I spent a lot of time with them over the years. And the hope is that when people put this record on, they’re thinking less about me and my life and more about themselves and how the songs fit into their lives. Because, you know, with my personal life in the last year or so, people are going to see what they want to see. And 99 out of 100 times, it’s incorrect.”
What I loved about Former Lives is even though some of the songs had Gibbard’s tinge of melancholy, the music through out is purely uplifting and joyous. Benjamin credits this to a renewed outlook on his life as he discussed with Huffington Post when he said, “I’ve lived my entire adult life never looking forward more than six months in the future, so that’s kind of difficult to speculate on. But as I continue to move forward in my life as a musician, I just want to continue to accrue a body of work that people can place in the context of their lives and relate to, and find some joy in. And I am doing exactly what I want to do with my life.”
If you’re looking for an instant jolt of lyrical joy, do yourself a favor and spin the first track from Benjamin Gibbard’s Former Lives. If you close you’re eyes you can imagine, Gibbard walking around London singing into his iPhone and the lyrical connections are the splash of reflections, even though we may not yet make it to Shepherd’s Bush, at least we have Benjamin’s lullaby to keep all of our worries astray.