Thursday, 11 February 2016

#70. Lust – The 80 Aces

Jarrod Hawker: drums
Matt Hewson: bass
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Lyrics by Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Music by Jarrod Hawker, Matt Hewson, Jade McLaren & Matt Neal.
Written 2004.
Recorded at Noise Studios in mid-2007.
Produced and mixed by Marcus Jennings.
Released on The 80 Aces EP.

If Lose Control was the worst set of lyrics Jade McLaren and I wrote, then I think Lust was probably the best.

“This song is definitely one of our finest,” Jade said.

“Lyrically, Doc and I were channeling a bit of The Police’s Every Breath You Take. I think we did it justice considering it’s not until you listen to every line that it becomes apparent how dark the story is.”

Ah yes, Every Breath You Take - the perennial wedding favourite that happy couples play  oblivious to the fact it's "very, very sinister and ugly".

Drummer Jarrod Hawker called it his second favourite 80 Aces song (I think his favourite is I Am Trying To Read Your Mind), partly because of that darkness too.

“I like that it sounds like a nice ballad/love song but the lyrics are pretty dark and disturbing,” Hawk said.

The initial idea came from a plan I had to write a seven-song EP where each track was based on the seven deadly sins (Has this been done before? I don’t know). Jade liked the idea so we picked a sin that we thought would be easy - lust - and started writing.

(On a side note, I did start writing an envy song and a greed song, but they never quite worked out and the concept EP was abandoned.)

"How about we pick 'stupidity'?"
"I keep telling you, Jade - that's not a sin. Unfortunately."

Anyway, Lust’s lyrics came about pretty easily. We decided to do it as a character piece about a man lusting after his neighbour. For some reason, I pictured Annette Bening in American Beauty as the object of his affections, and whenever I hear the song, I always picture the narrative being set in an American Beauty-like world. The line “I need you, like your roses need care” is the most obvious manifestation of that. The film and our song were also hitting on the same broader themes - about a darkness that stirs beneath the perfect-looking pretence of white-picket-fence suburbia.

Stills from American Beauty.

I think this is partly what makes Lust’s lyrics work so well. All the sensual moments that are implied are centred around banal and normal visuals from everyday living - “meet at the mailbox”, “one moment beneath your clothesline”, “climb out of your yard and into mine”. That banality and normality gets particularly creepy in unexpected ways too - tending to roses, getting "the husband out of your hair", and popping over to the neighbour’s place to ask a favour suddenly take on whole new meanings when you realise the narrator has been watching the object of his affections “through windows” and becoming increasingly unsatisfied by the “glimpses through the curtains”.

There are two things about the lyrics that I’m especially proud of. The first is the escalation of the narrator’s intent. Jade and I deliberately set about making the song get darker as it progressed. Hence the increased intensity of each verse’s opening line - “I want you”, “I need you,” and “I crave you”. It also builds through the way each verse is expressed. While the narrator’s intentions are made clear in the first couple of lines, it’s merely an invitation - “climb out of your yard and into mine”. In the second verse, the narrator wants to simply meet and discuss the proposition. But in the last verse, he’s coming around to "ask a few favours". I don't think there's a happy ending beyond the final chords of this song.

The other bit I particularly like is the line “we can talk about suburban affairs”. I thought it was the cleverest lyric I’d ever come up with at that point (at least I’m pretty sure I came up with that - Jade may say otherwise!).

Pictured: Jade saying otherwise.

Anyway, here are some words from people that aren’t me.

Kyle McLaren, who replaced Matt Hewson on bass: “I think (The 80 Aces EP version) was some of Jade’s finest work vocally. I also second (Hawk) on the fact that I like it so much because it's a ballad with some really dark lyrics that no one notices unless you (point out) how disturbed the song really is.”

Here’s Hawk again: “It was also a lot of people’s favorite track from that EP.  That, together with the fact that I would always suggest it, is probably why we never played it live.  Under no circumstances did we give the people what they wanted.”

*Doc's note: it did get left off setlists a lot, but mostly because it was so downbeat and slow that it had a tendency to ground a set to a halt and kill whatever energy we'd worked up. That, and because it was an old song, which tend to make way for new songs.

Live at World Vegan Day in Brunswick. That's not even a joke. 
Picture: Dannii Hale.

And here’s Jade: “Everyone was a star in the recording of this song (on The 80 Aces EP). Doc’s solo is particularly painful and wanting, which gives this character’s inner lustful desires a sound that is fitting. Being the singer, I loved doing the huge vocal at the end of the third verse. It was a bit self-indulgent but I always looked forward to showing off a little in that bit.”

*Doc's note: I think he meant “pained”, not “painful”, although many people have described my guitar playing as “painful” over the years.

Hewy was going to give me some words for this blog, but he ended up being unavailable for comment.

Hewy: unavailable for comment.

But, yeah, Jade always nailed this song. As Kyle said, the recording on The 80 Aces EP was one of Jade’s best performances, plus the melodies he wrote for the song were awesome.

The song was demoed previously during a day-long session we did with Gus Franklin and Tony Peel in Motherlode Studios back when we still known as The Extreme Sprinklers. Harry Fahey was on drums at that stage, Matt Hewson was on bass, and we smashed it out live with no overdubs.

Harry Fahey: drums
Matt Hewson: bass
Jade McLaren: vocals
Matt Neal: guitar

Recorded on February 24, 2006, at Motherlode Studio, Warrnambool.
Produced, mixed and engineered by Gus Franklin and Tony Peel.

I love the tremolo guitar sound on that demo. I wish we’d used that same sound when we recorded it for The 80 Aces EP instead of the wishy-washy faux-chorus effect we ended up with.

Musically, its closest relative is I Could Have Lied by Red Hot Chili Peppers. There's something in the slow groove, the rhythm, the chords, and the "painful" guitar solo that hint at I Could Have Lied as a relative of sorts. All four members of the Sprinklers were right into Blood Sugar Sex Magik, so the influence was bound to manifest somewhere.


I want you, and not this life
I’ll trade it all in - the house and the wife -
for just one moment beneath your clothes line
Climb out of your yard and into mine

Well, I’m tired of watching you through windows

I need you, like your roses need care
I can tend to you when no one is there
Meet at the mail box when he’s out of your hair
We can talk about suburban affairs

I crave you - just one touch
Glimpses through the curtains isn’t enough
We could be such good neighbours
I’m coming over to ask a few favours