Saturday, 13 July 2013

#18. Clichéd – 21st Century Ox

Dion Barker: bass.
Harry Fahey: drums.
Matt Hewson: saxophone.
Brendan Hoffmann: electric guitar.
Matt Neal: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals.

Lyrics: Matt Neal
Music: Matt Neal, Dion Barker, Harry Fahey, Matt Hewson and Brendan Hoffmann.
Written early 2001.
Recorded at Motherlode Studios, Warrnambool, 2002.
Produced and mixed by Harry Fahey and Tony Peel.

Thanks to an alphabetical coincidence, four of the last five songs in this blog have been 21st Century Ox songs, but this next one will be the last Ox track for a little while.

In fact, I wasn't even going to include this song because I don’t like it. It was only on the urging of my fellow former bandmates that it gets a guernsey here.

So I asked them to tell why they liked what I consider to be a piece of whiney emo rubbish.

Brendan Hoffmann (left) and Dion Barker at the original
Motherlode Studios during the recording sessions which included Clichéd.

Here’s guitarist Brendan Hoffmann:
“I like Clichéd, good song. You're just worried about the long-ass notes you had to hold for ages - a challenge for anyone! (But) I was always paranoid that that song was about me! If it was, I think you had the right idea, i.e. writing songs about people in the band beats writing songs about yourself. You were always a good lyricist as far as I was concerned. I think we were both young and perhaps insecure about our creativity at the time (but) people don't really listen too much to what people are saying in their lyrics, just the passion behind it.”

Here’s bassist Dion Barker:
"Clichéd was one of my favourite songs to play and one of the songs that I thought had the most commercial potential. I'm sure I remember (drummer Harry Fahey) talking once about every song being like something that occupies a three dimensional area of space, which can be filled with sounds and frequencies, but that a good song leaves just the right amount of space empty too. It's about getting the recipe exactly right so that it all comes together. I think Clichéd is one of the songs that we did that really well with - there's some really full-on, all-in type parts and then it pulls back and transitions really smoothly into the verses and outro.

Dion lays down some bass tracks at Motherlode as producer Tony Peel looks on.

"Aside from that, I just really enjoyed playing the song - the drum and bass lines are really tight and that's something that Harry always made sure of - he's an awesome drummer! We were very lucky to have him! As for the lyrics, sure - they are pretty emo and depressing, but they are a very real example of what a lot of people that age or any age, for that matter, go through! Yes, it's very much a cliché, but it's also very true and real. The words flow really well together and paint a very real picture that I think we can all identify with in one way or another."

And here's Harry:
“I love the groove of this song. Simple pop rock groove, not overdone, and the verse dynamic is sweet. Dion is right; in hindsight I’d say this has more commercial appeal than anything else Ox did.”

Musically I don’t mind this recording – I like the chord progression, the band dynamics, the use of the acoustic guitar subtly throughout, and Matt Hewson’s tasty sax garnishes. I recall I was trying to write a Muse song. Rhythmically, it’s a mash-up of Cave and Uno – or at least, that’s the effect I was going for.

This is from back when Muse were really young... and still rocked.

And if Matthew Bellamy could get away with chorus lines like “come in my cave and I’ll burn your heart away” and “you are nothing to me”, I thought I could write something dark and emotional too, but I totally misfired there. Where Bellamy’s lyrics were directed outward to another person, mine were woefully and lamely directed inwards to a manufactured world of self-pity. Self-pity and being emotionally damaged were big in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, a hangover from the grunge era.

The only saving grace in the lyrics is the opening couple of lines – at least I was aware of how clichéd and pathetic it all sounded. But that probably doesn’t excuse my lyrical angst or my need to whinge and whine and ‘woe is me’ (and don’t even get me started on the thin, flat vocals, which had to be rather obviously auto-tuned in at least one place). “The fragile flowers sway”? What the fuck was I thinking?

"I was thinking, like, you know, flowers are, like, fragile and stuff."

But this song was something of an epiphany. Prior to this, most of the songs I was writing (that weren’t joke songs) were bad angsty teenage poetry set to music. In Clichéd I acknowledged I had a problem - that I was becoming a cliché - and acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to rehabilitation.


I'm becoming a cliché;
everything I do and say
just proves it more and more.
Dress in black just to suit your soul,
let the darkness assume control…
I don't care anymore.

Help me in here, happy in nowhere,
happy in nowhere, am I happy here?

Free me please

Sleep in a room built of loneliness,
my own antisocialness
will keep them all away.
Moods that swing like a pendulum,
I'm up and I'm down again -
The fragile flowers sway.

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