Monday, June 30, 2008

Geosong of the Week: Ventilator's "Earthquake Song"

This week's song is much more obscure than last week's, though I actually found it fairly early on in my search for earthquake-related music, thanks to typing "earthquake" into the iTunes music store to see what happened. This "Earthquake Song" is by a Los Angeles-based band called Ventilator, from their 1996 album "Reseda Spleen." (Is that not a fantastic album name? Spleen spleen spleen! And the guy on TV just said "spleen" as soon as I typed it - how weird is that?) It's another Northridge song - this would be evident from the album's release date and the "Reseda" in the title pinpointing the quake's actual epicenter - but the band's MySpace says outright that the idea for the song came after one bandmember's studio was trashed by the temblor. The song is in two parts: a section with lyrics, followed by an extended guitar solo.

The lyrics focus on the aftermath of the earthquake, rather than the imminent shaking, or the exact moment of the rupture. It also zooms in on one person wandering the bewildering postquake city and struggling with the enormity of the situation, rather than taking the city at large as the closest focus.
I couldn't find the lyrics transcribed online, so I'll take a stab at it. If I'm not supposed to do this, someone please let me know!

So you say you've walked the streets today.
What was left unharmed still remains.
Your hands are at your sides, you face me with denial.
How can we rely on our houses?

Gonna need a loan to hold us in.
Feel the movement, continental drift.
Don't be so surprised, your home is now a lie.
Remember how you walked without standing.

I particularly like that last line, since people that I know who experienced the Northridge quake talk about how they were basically thrown out of their beds. Why walk, when the ground walks for you? I also think the line about denial is interesting, since there seems to be a fair amount of it in southern California. There are a few quake awareness campaigns going on in the area now to try and fix this, but when I bring up quakes with non-sciency people, I have more often than not received a remark to the extent of, "Silly east coaster, stop worrying about that!" This song covers the switch from "haha can't happen to me!" denial to "how did that just actually happen?" denial.

Musically, this song hits me with a strong Beatles influence. I don't know if everyone will hear that influence as strongly as I do, but it was pretty much the first thing I thought upon listening, even before I considered the lyrics. The influence is more prominent in the first section of the song - the part with words. I think it's the combination of a modal scale as the basis for the melody, as well as the wide leap in register between the second and third phrases of the verse. Modes and interesting melody contours were not, apparently, things the Beatles set out to do on principle, but I think it sounds good. Ventilator's "Earthquake Song" hits that sound, to my ear, which is a very good thing as far as I'm concerned. The opening guitar riff is also pretty Beatlesy, but the end guitar solo isn't quite as much.

Considering I like this song, there's really no good reason why I haven't listened to the others available on their site yet.

Ventilator on MySpace
You can hear "Earthquake Song" and others on there. And there is not annoying flash.

1 comment:

Silver Fox said...

I can hear the Beatles influence in the first part of the song - partly the harmonies of the singers, which reminds me a little of "Day Tripper". I think it's also like some of their later songs, but can't think of any specific ones. Also, the lead singer sounds a bit like John or Paul!