Tuesday, 12 August 2014

#46. How To Get Kidnapped

Harry Fahey: drum programming
Matt Neal: vocals, guitar, bass

Lyrics by Matt Neal
Music by Harry Fahey and Matt Neal
Written and recorded at Kellie’s Swamp, Warrnambool in July-August 2005
Produced by Matt Neal
Mixed by Brendan Hoffmann and Matt Neal

I’ve spoken previously in this blog about my love of XTC (in particular here, here and here). To me they are the musical benchmark to which I aspire – rhythmically, lyrically, melodically, chordally (cordially?), tonally, texturally … they impress me on every level.

Because of this I may have over-stepped the line between homage and plagiarism on this track. I’ll happily admit to borrowing a rhythm here and there or a couple of notes or an idea – that’s natural, all musicians do it, everything’s been done anyway. But on this song, I think I went too close to out-and-out ripping off an XTC song called You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful.

It’s a fucking amazing song, so can you blame me? My track is partially a bad facsimile, mostly in the verses – the rhythms of the guitars, the melody and the drums just seem too close in my present-day ears. I do have a specific memory of getting Extreme Sprinklers drummer Harry Fahey to do the drum programming for me and telling him I wanted something “a bit Latin and a bit You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful”. So I knew at the time, but that didn't stop me.

It’s in the guitar solos too – that’s me trying to copy those weirdly jazzy solos XTC guitarist Dave Gregory played. Ultimately the whole song is me testing myself, to see how XTC-ish I could get. I think I failed the test. The thing I really didn’t comprehend was matching the tone of the lyrics with the vibe of the song – something XTC’s Andy Partridge excels at.

Here I am, getting weirdly jazzy in a solo.

I sang this with a cold at 5am in the morning. I was apparently struck by the thought that the vocals would sound “interesting” when I was tired and full of snot, and yeah, I guess they do. But “interesting” is sometimes just a synonym for “shit”.

Having said all that, I do love elements of this song. The guitar sounds are cool, especially that weird backwards swirly one after the first verse (yep, that’s a guitar), the unnecessary outro loop, and the distorted power chords that come in for the second verse. The song probably doesn’t need two guitar solos, let alone a 20-second one and a later 40-second one, but I couldn’t bear to part with them because I really dig them, especially the latter one. Also, I love the title. The idea for it came from seeing one of those Worst Case Scenario-style books about what to do when you’re kidnapped or attacked by a shark or in a tornado and I thought it would be funny to flip that notion.

Maybe it needed another guitar solo.

But figuring out what How To Get Kidnapped meant as a title (and, therefore, as a song) led to a dark place and the resulting lyrics are a bunch of passive-aggressive self-deprecating bollocks about what was going wrong at the time with my headspace in my first marriage, all buried under some semi-cryptic nonsense. It’s basically me admitting that I was fucking up, but being totally aware that I wasn’t doing anything to fix the problem. “Wrongs are all righted then repeat the cycle” isn’t exactly the winning attitude of a potential Husband Of The Year, nor is the misguided notion that staying in with the missus is akin to being “kidnapped”. But you live and learn, and if you don’t, you get dumber and die.

You may have noticed that very few of the songs in this blog have been deeply personal or self-exploratory or honestly emotional. I’ve written those kinds of songs, but they don’t tend to get recorded or offered up to the bands I play in. I don’t know why – I guess they tend to feel too simple or self-indulgent or embarrassing or something. I’ve always preferred to try to write the cleverly detached songs about things that no one else is writing about yet which are somehow (hopefully) universal in some way. Anyone can write a song about how sad and fucked up they are, right? It’s easy to write about your “feelings”. But how many people are writing songs about playing hackysack and being Canadian and people falling down Niagara Falls?

Fuck feelings.

Pics by Tenielle McLam and Dannii Hale.


I am the talking donkey
Always caught flat-footed with all hooves in my mouth
I’m always talking in the wrong key
And always held to ransom by a sense of doubt

I am the howler monkey
The biggest buffoon of the baboons in this house
Negotiations get wonky
She has every right to tie me to the couch

All my desires are here by the fire
I know how to get kidnapped
I know how to get kidnapped
Wrongs are all righted then repeat the cycle
I know how to get kidnapped
I know how to get kidnapped

I am the festive turkey
High as a kite but always gone with the wind
What I get I am deserving
But I’ve got Stockholm Syndrome and I’m happy staying in