‘The New’: Drama and Modulation

As per my last post, a further look into “The New”:

– Something I find very dramatic about “The New” is the shift (also called a modulation) from C major to B minor about halfway through the song. At 2:22, we hear the synth repeating the notes B to C, but with F-natural being played in the bass we know we’re still in C major. At 2:56 the synth just stays on the note B, and the prevailing overall harmony is a B diminished chord (comprised of the notes B-D-F), which is the chord built on the leading tone of C major. Minute 3:14 brings us finally to B minor, as the guitar moves back and forth between the notes B and A-sharp—the latter note being the leading tone of B minor—while we also hear F-sharp in the bass, confirming B minor as the key.

– Typically, major keys are associated with happiness, minor keys are associated with sadness, and diminished chords are considered ominous. If we accept these scale-structure = emotional response associations (which is a nature vs. nurture hot-topic among some), then we could hear the lyrics of the first half of the song, i.e., the verse, pre-chorus and chorus, as corresponding to C major, in that the words progress from hopeful (“life will be better”), to somewhat fettered (“I need to defend”) as we approach the ominous B-diminished chord at 2:56.

– Once the instruments (in an almost agonizing way—Daniel’s bend a half-step down from B to A-sharp conveys pain to me) have established B minor, the voice reenters the song at 3:45. Paul’s voice is higher, almost strained-sounding, and also sounds farther away than in the first half of the song. He’s shifted from his “mind” to the more physical, and the minor key suggests that the seed of doubt and sadness planted in the lyrics sung before the shift from C major to B minor is flowering here.

– Well, not as in-depth as I would like to go—that’s what my future Interpol book is for, right??—but enough for now. Next up, a look at chromaticism and synesthesia in relation to Interpol’s music.

Until then,
Much love from,

“The New” (lyrics from interpolnyc.com):

I wish I could live free
I hope it’s not beyond me
Settling down it takes time
One day we’ll live together
And life will be better
I have it here yeah in my mind
Baby, you know someday you’ll slow

Baby, my heart’s been breaking

I gave a lot to you
I take a lot from you too
You slave a lot from me
Guess you could say
I gave you my edge

I can’t pretend
I need to defend
Some part of me from you
I know I’ve spent some time a-lying
I can’t pretend
I need to defend
Some part of me from you
I know I’ve spent some time a-lying

You’re looking alright tonight
I think we should go
You’re looking alright tonight
I think we should go

“The New”:
0:00 guitar scrapes, 0:06 bass intro
0:40 verse (“I wish…”)
1:14 pre-chorus (“I gave a lot…”)
1:48 chorus (“I can’t pretend…”)
2:22 interlude
2:56 transition
3:14 guitar solo
3:45 secondary chorus (“You’re looking…”)
4:03 bass/guitar solo
4:20 coda
4:53 bass/guitar solo
5:11 more coda
5:43 outro


~ by megwilhoite on July 3, 2008.

4 Responses to “‘The New’: Drama and Modulation”

  1. Interesting analysis!!

    “diminished chords are considered ominous” hmmm.. i did know that. I will learn them in this case. :DD


  2. glad you enjoyed it! yes, the diminished 5th (also called a tritone) that occurs in a diminished chord was called by medieval music theorists “diabolos en musica”!

  3. Old post, but I just found this blog and I am nerding out. Love it! Wouldn’t the end of The New technically be the Key of B Harmonic Minor having the A# in there?

    • Hi Christopher, thanks for reading! Yeah I when I say something is in “minor” I’m just sort of implying that it’s the harmonic version — if it were natural minor I would actually say “B natural minor” because it would be so weird (to me, at least!) to be missing the leading tone in this style of music. And don’t get me started on “melodic” minor, which is really just theorists indulging their categorizing compulsion — suffice it to say that sometimes you have to raise scale degree 6 to get to the raised scale degree 7! Now *I’m* nerding out!

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