One of the fun things I’ve discovered while writing this blog is the unexpected topics that come up. For example, I knew that there would be a post about “entrance music” during Toadies week. But I did not know that I would be writing a post about cities last week for LCD Soundsystem. Likewise, this post was entirely unplanned, but inspiration struck while listening to Pinback, so here we are.
When a band has multiple vocalists, there’s usually a couple of different ways that is handled. Sometimes it’s used for harmonizing. Think about the Beach Boys, or the Mamas & the Papas. They use multiple voices to create a wall of sound, a chorus of sorts. Sometimes it just opens up the options for a band to have different vocalists for different songs, depending on singing style and the timbre of their voice, to emphasize the meaning or tone of the song. For examples of this, look to the Beatles as they switch off between John Lennon and Paul McCartney and sometimes George Harrison (and on one or two songs they let Ringo Starr have the lead). The Clash also did this, with Joe Strummer and Mick Jones bringing entirely different vocal flavors to their songs. Sometimes they use a vocalist/backup vocalist setup. The backup vocalist’s job is not to necessarily harmonize, but to interject their voice as another instrument to support the harmony. Think of Kim Deal’s siren-like singing behind Frank Black’s vocals in the Pixies.
Pinback, similar to the other bands, has two vocalists. Both Rob Crow and Armistead Burwell Smith IV sing in their songs. Unlike the previous examples, though, Pinback takes a very different tactic to their multiple vocalists. It’s true, a lot of their songs work along the lines previously mentioned, but most do not. They do something that I can’t come up with any other examples of. They basically sing two different songs at the same time.
There is a universal musical melody to be sure, this isn’t quite to the level of “mash-up” where someone cleverly puts two songs together that have similar enough structure to mesh. But there are so many times that it feels like the two singers wrote the music together, then went to separate rooms and wrote the lyrics. Then they came back together to play it and just ended up singing both songs at the same time, giveing each other room like the four-way-stop version of singing, or sometimes more similarly to a round like Frère Jacques. Songs like Torch, Forced Motion and Bbtone showcase this really well. They take turns and sing over each other, and each vocal line seems disparate but connected to each other. It helps that their voices are similar, neither one more powerful than the other, so that neither one forces you to pay more attention. Your mind as you listen gives them equal weight.
So what does that have to do with relationships?
Relationships, like any other weighty thing in our life (i.e. careers, child care, religion, politics) are something that no one can ever resist telling you their opinion about how they know more or are better at it than you. It’s just a fact of being human. It’s who we are. And to be honest, if we didn’t have our personal assurance that we were right about these things, our world would fall in on itself. I don’t think there has been a mother who hasn’t at least wanted to tell another mother what she’s doing wrong in the raising of their children. I know that there are thousands of articles on the internet about how to get your dream job. LinkedIn sends me one every week, it seems. And no one ever thinks their political ideas are wrong, but they always want to find a way to show you that your’s are if they don’t match their’s. Relationships are no different. Everyone who is in a relationship (mostly romantic, but this applies to platonic relationships sometimes, too) has their perfect metaphor for relationships. I like the one that my wife uses often: “Relationships are about finding a person who’s ‘crazy’ matches your ‘crazy.'” It makes sense to me, and considering I have the matching “crazy” to her’s, it works out for me. So now I’m going to through my two cents of metaphor at this and tie this whole article together. You can probably already see this coming, but I’m stating it anyway.
Relationships are about two people singing different songs to the same melody.
I’m going to forgo the usual bunch of condescending explanation of my clever, opinionated metaphor. I’m going to let it stand on its own. But I think it’s apt, and I think it’s true, and I have a seventeen year relationship to back it up.