Talk is Cheap
Talk is Cheap was written and (initially) recorded prior to Incantation. But by the time I was done with the latter, I wanted to reimagine Talk is Cheap, so I did. It's an expression of anger. Arriving at that required moving past a habitual internalization of emotions, which fosters depression. But I didn't want it to sound like a black hole. So I created a musical backdrop that could act as a productive contrast. Euphoric sounds to offset nihilism. Bowed guitar, layered backing vocals, synths, and urgent rhythms: a kinetic energy. Some of my favorite influences were referenced ... Catherine Wheel, Cocteau Twins, Belly, early Radiohead, The Chameleons UK.
The goals was for the music to be like taffy, pulling me out of my head and into some place I resisted. A transformative, challenging intent was part and parcel. Backing vocals are often other points of view. Sometimes congruent with the main melody, sometimes not. Either way, the variations uncovered important emotional tensions and conflicts needed for clarity. The idea of contrasts also shows up thematically ... cynicism v. idealism, talk is cheap but communication is everything ... that sort of thing.
Stories are heavily explored here as well. Getting stuck in our own story of reality is easy. So many decisions are made because of a narrative, 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 dealing with things we can't control, this record is a call to action to explore what we can. 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? 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 that's closing and the new one about to open. What began with the acknowledgment 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 as one of the most important three and a half minutes I've ever committed to record. I remember exactly the moment I wrote it. I think about it a lot, and it's the song I'll probably think about in my final moments.
... 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.