Talk is Cheap: Notes
Talk is Cheap was initially written and recorded prior to Incantation. But by the time I was done with the latter, I knew I wanted to reimagine Talk is Cheap, so I did. More than just a breakup record, it's an expression of an overwhelming amount of anger. Prior to the events that catalyzed the songs, I had struggled with chronic depression since childhood. Arriving at cathartic anger required moving past the lifelong habitual internalization of emotions that depression fostered. However, I didn't want the outpouring of these emotions to feel or sound like a black hole. After all, anger can be crippling and can put you at odds with yourself and those around you. But rather than just sublimating them into a more acceptable or palatable version, I needed to fully experience and express the difficult feelings and not skip the step. So I chose to create a musical backdrop that could act as a productive contrast to the lyrics and weight of the songs. In this way, I could pour a lot of dark emotions into a euphoric and ebullient wall of sound to offset any nihilism. Bowed guitar, layered backing vocals, synths, and urgent and dynamic drums were all part of the idea to create a record that was full of kinetic energy. Some of my favorite influences can be found referenced here... Catherine Wheel, Cocteau Twins, Belly, early Radiohead. (You can't possibly know how much I wish I had written Swamp Thing by The Chameleons UK).
I wanted the songs to feel like they picked me up like taffy and connected emotionally to me, but then could get me out of my head enough to take me on an emotional journey I might otherwise be resistant to. This transformative intent was part and parcel here. It wasn't enough for the songs to just sympathize or empathize with me; they had to challenge me enough to transform a thought and get me unstuck. Backing vocals are often other points of view in my head. Sometimes a backing vocal agrees with the main melody and expresses the same feeling with a slightly different emotional intensity or shade. Sometimes it runs counter to the dominant thought or feeling and attempts to inhibit or challenge it. Either way, all these variations uncover important emotional tensions and conflicts for me that help clarify how I might need to reassess what I think I think or feel. The idea of contrasts also shows up thematically.... cynicism v. idealism, talk is cheap but communication is everything, etc.
Stories are heavily explored here as well. It's very easy to get stuck in our own story of what reality is. So many decisions are made because of an individual's conception of a narrative. Something so invisible can drive so many tangible consequences, for good or ill. And in this way, Talk is Cheap is the yang of Incantation's yin. Whereas Incantation is a static musing on how different characters deal with things they cannot control, this record is a call to action to explore what we can control. And that begins with the stories running in our minds. Is the character in Reinforcements truly stuck on the frontline and dutifully waiting for backup, or is this merely a calcification of a memory superimposed on a present situation? Is our feeling of anger or antagonism, such as with a peer in Bad Fairy or Charon on the river Styx in Marking Time, a true reflection of the relationship or an old wound rearing its head every chance it gets? A person's relationship with death itself might be negotiable, but a toxic relationship might not be.
"Could I invent myself as anyone?" The question is posed in I've Got One. By the midpoint Verb, having capitulated to the need for growth and change, we've committed to this tightrope walk and are "half across the canyon" but "walking blind". By Lazy Heart, we're "coming out of the thick of things" with a clarity of thought and perspective. The penultimate song, The Unreliable Narrator, describes that moment of breaking the fourth wall of a narrative that is no longer useful or honest. Once you jump off the page of a story, things become more of a choose-your-own adventure. Here, the character presses fast forward to the Epilogue and writes an ending more suited and aligned with both the chapter she's closing and the new one she's about to open. What began with the acknowledgement that pretzeling the self into a two-dimensional character is exhausting and limiting ("it’s a brutal shape, I'd watch you prune my vine" from Talk is Cheap) concludes with an understanding that the ability to adapt doesn't mean you always should (in Epilogue). At every moment, we author our lives within the parameters of what we can control. Evaluate whether to stick it out or if it's time to move on.
Although among the most lyrically "simple" of my songs, Evidence of Me stands out in my mind and heart as one of the most important three and a half minutes I've ever committed to record. I remember exactly the tender moment I wrote it. I think about it a lot, and it's the song I'll probably think about in my final moments before death takes me.
... but on the other hand, the insanity of our world frequently reminds me of the lyrics "the world is such a simple place of supply and demand; every god has a fanboy, and there’s an ass for every seat" (from An Ass For Every Seat), lines that are generally a point of defiant pride for me. So who knows. Perspectives change.