Follow up: Slow Hands, The New, All the Rage
I’ve been having some lively email discussions with reader Christopher, and I thought it would be fun/interesting for others to read so I decided to post them here! I also respond to a Facebook message from Robbie about “All the Rage Back Home” at the bottom of this post. (Next up on the blog is more El Pintor, plus Chemistry, Stella, C’mere, Obstacle 1, Length of Love, and a fuller analysis of Obstacle 2.)
You can read our full discussion here. We discuss the grey zone of the song’s key; in spite of the pitch collection strongly suggesting G major, the song lacks “the textbook quality of the key,” as Christopher pithily puts it. Here’s my transcription of the opening of the song:
Christopher wrote, “I was recently listening to ‘The New’ and I remembered your blog where you discuss how it begins in the key of C major and modulates to B minor (harmonic). It was bothering me, because of this ‘grey zone’ we recently were talking about. Again, while the lyrics remains hopeful at the beginning and the notes suggest C major, it never felt particularly major-y…I’m feeling A natural minor….Also, when the lyrics begin ‘I gave a lot to you…’ I hear some arpeggiating of an A minor chord by one of the guitars, which could indicate the key of A natural minor before modulating to B harmonic minor…Then again I love the words that you initially used to describe the C major lyrics being hopeful to B minor lyrics conveying pain. Very poetic and beautiful, but it’s hard for me to get past such minor sound phrasing despite the bass melody beginning on C which would usually indicate C major.”
It’s weird to think that I wrote the post that Christopher references almost 8 years ago! I definitely think I was a little too prescriptive in calling the first key of the song “C major.” Actually, what I hear as the repeating chord progression in the first three minutes of the song is: C/G – G – Am – Dm7/A, which can be interpreted as both A natural minor (as Christopher mentions) and its relative major, C major. I agree that these three minutes sound more minor-y than major-y, and that they demonstrate perfectly how wonderfully Interpol’s music can inhabit the grey zone when it comes to key. I think that they achieve this mainly by never playing stacked triads; the guitars play their separate lines, the bass its separate line, and the vocals its separate line, and all combined we get “harmonies” and pitch collections that point to one or more keys depending on your interpretation. It’s the beauty of polyphonic music that you can have these grey zones while still maintaining a sense of tonality.
“All the Rage”
Robbie wrote to me, “By the way, I think ‘All The Rage Back Home”s tempo is 168, not 84 BPM, at least when the backbeat sets in at 0:49.”
So, I actually think both BPM designations make sense, depending on which instrument you’re focusing on. If you’re focusing on the drums, then 168 definitely makes more sense. However, for my transcription, I was focusing more on the guitar line and I really heard the rhythm “quarter-quarter-eighth-sixteenth-dotted eighth” as one unit; interpreting the song as 84 BPM allowed me to have that unit take up one full measure in 4/4 time. That being said, when I first listened to the song, my first thought was that the BPM was at 168 because of the drums.
Ok, more to come soon!