Music Analysis: ‘The Man I Am’ [video]

Here are a few key notes from the video for readers whose first language isn’t English:

The first section of the song, which I call the “Always” section, is made up of 7-bar phrases (each phrase starts when Paul sings “Always”).  This is interesting, because the normal phrase length is divisible by 4 (4,8,12,16).

The second section, which I call the “man I am” section, features Paul singing in octaves.  That is, he’s singing the same note in both his high and low range.  Considering the lyrics, I hear Paul singing in octaves to portray an oppressive male stereotype. This section uses 8-bar phrases. The overall form of this song is: “Always” – “man I am” – “Always” – “man I am” – coda

I just call this section the coda.  The guitar takes a lead role in the texture.  This section also uses 8-bar phrases.
The chord progression Em – G – Ebm – Gb – Ebm – Bbm – Bbm – Fsus – F is the same one that’s used in the “man I am” section.  This chord progression is very odd to say the least, and further supports my belief that Interpol is driven by the line/melody on this album; “Always Malaise” is very polyphonic (many independent melodies stacked on top of each other).  Em & G simply shift down a half step to Ebm & Gb.

The mixing is much more nuanced on this album, which made transcribing the song much more challenging.

~ by megwilhoite on December 1, 2010.

18 Responses to “Music Analysis: ‘The Man I Am’ [video]”

  1. Thanks for this analysis Meg. I am up for more. Especially interested in Paul’s singing in this song and how it relates to the sphere of the instruments.

  2. Thanks for the analysis, Megan!!

  3. awesome video! i stumbled upon your website pretty randomly but i am thoroughly impressed. as a budding musician in my own right reading music theory analysis of one of my favorite bands is the best thing i can hope for. 🙂

  4. Found this through some forum chatter and I’m really impressed by the way you break it down. With an album like Interpol, you just know there’s more going on beneath the surface than what immediately meets the ear on first listen. Keep it up!

  5. Awesome analysis Meg! I had goosebumps the whole time from watching your analysis, I’m glad that someone is willing to explain Interpol’s complexities in such an understandable way. And they’re such a creative band, they really deserve this much appreciation an understanding! Thanks and keep on doing htese videos, this one was excellent!

  6. Great analysis and I love the video format!

  7. Thanks, Calvin! I’m desperately trying to get a new one up soon!

  8. Hi Meg,
    This is really great…thanks so much for the time and love you took on this video !!
    We learn so much !!

    looking forward your next one 🙂


  9. Hi Meg,
    thanks for your blog, discovered it just a couple of days ago and can´t stop reading. I don´t know that much about music theory, but I always found it striking that a lot of reviews actually say that Interpl´s songwriting is quite “simple”. I always felt that this was not the case, so I´m very thankful to you for showing me that I was right ;). I´ve got a question to you, when you find the time, could you please do a review of one of the less known songs like “Specialist”, “Precipitate”, “Direction” or other B-Sides? I wonder what you´d have to say about those!

    Best wishes!

  10. Hi Darko,

    Thanks for reading! Great suggestion about analyzing some of the B-sides, I’ve been meaning to look at “Specialist” for ages. Got a video for “Barricade” coming up in a couple days, then I can try out some of the B-sides!


  11. Their 4th album is the first one I heard and I loved it instantly. Their other albums don’t seem that deep. Thanks to your blog I now understand more and more the reasons of this fascination. I think it is really about polyphony (I love Bach) and original chord progressions on this album. Always malaise is my favorite song so I really appreciate your video. I am looking forward for an analysis of The Undoing (the vocal there is so thrilling). Thanks a lot.
    (I am from Krakow – they just played here and I am still under their spell)

  12. hello check out my always malaise cover

  13. Hi Meg,

    It seems in my immediate circle of friends that Interpol are just some drony, moany band from New York….well actually most haven’t even heard of them which makes it even worse!! Thank goodness somebody understands the subtle intricaties in their rather bespoke music style. I fell in love with Interpol from their first release and have enjoyed the way they have stuck to their own path and development.

    ‘Pioneers To The Fall’ and ‘Always Malaise’ have been stand-out classics from the last two albums and to have you breakdown Always Malaise has make me realise the clever thinking behind the track. If this comes quickly and naturally for Interpol, then they are truly gifted.

    One thing I must ask you though; whilst a lot of music is transcribed and released on the web, I cannot find anything for ‘Always Malaise’. Have you any plans to put your scriblings on a score so those ‘not quite so gifted’ musicians can have a go at playing it (or is it against copyright?)

    • Thanks for reading, Elton!

      Good question re: copyright laws and transcriptions. I actually made a partial transcription for Always Malaise in the program Sibelius. I think distributing the transcription privately won’t get me into too much trouble (hopefully! copyright laws are so hairy), so I’ll email you a PDF of that later today!

  14. […] in complex ways, creating an extremely intricate metrical structure. And then there’s “Always Malaise” with its unusual 7 bar phrases and odd chord […]

  15. […] this was a difficult one to transcribe! As I mentioned in my previous post on “Always Malaise”, the production on this album—especially the layering of the […]

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