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Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Intro, one, two, three, four, five.


Ends with a little bit of the last chord of "Paw Paw Tree" on piano, which then continues, following the vocals as the previous instruments decay, playing one chord per bar, with the whole thing a bit rubato (am I using that right?), i.e. not to a beat but just free-flowing. This is an intro, and it is capped with a wah'ed electric guitar noise that Eleanor describes as "This is where Matt makes a big jump and he says 1-2-3-4."

Then the piano comes in, plays a little vamp for two bars, is then joined by tom-toms and the Rhodes for another two bars before the vocals come in. It's a pretty basic blues progression, staying on the I (which I think may even be an E major, but no guitar here, rats) for 4 bars while Eleanor sings a descending, half-spoken line. It then shifts up to the IV (A) for 2 bars and the vocals go up proportionately, and finishes on a iv (A minor) unless I'm being retarded and it's a iii. Eh. Anyway, the IV-iv/iii bit of it are the chorus, where Eleanor says "My dog was lost but now he's found" twice. A hand-muted crash is played all metal-style on the chord change. This all goes around twice, the electric guitar comes in, and there's a little instrumental break formed around a descending line on the Rhodes for 3 bars followed by a one-bar descending line on the electric. Then we do another two verse-chorus pairs and a break, with the electric chiming in sparsely.

After this second break, the tempo drops considerably all of a sudden, and the chord changes are played by an acoustic guitar strumming a swinging, eighth-quarter pattern, with the electric soloing over. This goes for a verse/chorus, and then a drum machine beat drops in, strongly reminiscent of the one that starts "Quay Cur," with a gabba-ish reversed sub-bassy kick and a crumpling snare, and the guitars drop out, with an organ droning on the chords. This again plays for one verse/chorus pair, and then a bunch of the previous instruments come back in for the break, with the electric guitar and bass playing the line, the Rhodes doing something different (rising and falling lines, sounds like), plus a bass and a tambourine.

Then for the seventh verse it's back to the form of the fifth verse, i.e. just guitars, with a little phased noise on the threes accenting, and another electric added for the chorus. Then the eighth verse is like the seventh, with organ and drum machine, but for the chorus the electric kicks back in. This is followed by a break mostly like the second one, with the main melody line a bit more subsumed for some reason.

Following the usual electric-and-bass bar that ends the breaks, we're into an outro that's just organ and vocals, again somewhat (but less so than before) out-of-time. Same melody as the intro. Then some delay noises that bear no particular connection to what came before nor to the following track, although they do sound a bit "Turning Round"-y.

In chart form:

0:00-0:13 Intro
0:14-0:28 Verse 1
0:29-0:34 Chorus
0:33-0:40 Verse 2
0:41-0:46 Chorus
0:47-0:53 Break
0:54-1:04 Verse 3
1:05-1:09 Chorus
1:10-1:15 Verse 4
1:16-1:19 Chorus
1:20-1:28 Break
1:29-1:43 Verse 5 (slower)
1:44-1:50 Chorus
1:51-1:57 Verse 6 (drum machine)
1:58-2:04 Chorus
2:05-2:15 Break
2:16-2:30 Verse 7 (guitars again)
2:31-2:38 Chorus
2:39-2:45 Verse 8 (drum machine again)
2:46-2:52 Chorus
2:53-3:02 Break
3:03-3:29 Outro

All told, this three and a half minute song orchestrates the same basic verse chord progression four different ways. Which is impressive, but since that's for 8 verses, it doesn't really match up with the Pitchfork theory.

The whole thing is an unusual track in that it's a very Gallowsbird-y one, with sparse and short instrumental breaks, a bluesy chord structure, and speak-sing vocals. I quite like it, albeit in a different way than I like "Chris Michaels" or "Blueberry Boat"--left with an acoustic guitar, I often find myself playing and singing it, which is nice. I'm kind of interested what the songwriting process was like on this, given how much it sounds like a song from the first album, ostensibly Eleanor's, when it's actually from Matt's album. Was he trying to write in her style or is it a holdover or are they just simplifying things for us? Guess it don't matter much.

Also: here is the old version of the song, which Matthew (who it comes courtesy of) says is a pretty accurate representation of how it was played before the recording of Blueberry Boat, and is from the SBN session. Totally driven by the electric guitar, no tempo change, no drum machine, the only keyboard part is a siren-y noise. I was going to map this but there's sort of no point--intro {[(verse chorus) X 2, break] X 4} outro is how it goes. I think I like the new version better.


The nicest thing about this song is the way the structure mirrors what little plot there is--the major events happen in the intro and outro, and in the very vampy and repetitive midsection, nothing actually happens aside from a lot of lookin' around.

The other nicest thing about this song (shh!) are the lyrics, probably, which are just wonderful and specific and free-associative and evocative. (Dude from Interpol, are you listening? More Super K references!) To presage things a bit, they're reminiscent of the first section of "Blancheflower," cramming a lot of syllables into a short space.

Plot? Uh, hmm. Eleanor is mean to her dog, kicked him, etc., so the dog leaves, like a woman, except a dog. Or like a man, I guess--shouldn't be sexist in my evocations of blues-mythologized domestic abuse. Anyway, she goes to the laundromat and asks either the actual or figurative cats there, then goes to the vet, then to the bar, then to the gym (where she thinks they might have offered her dog/man/woman some sort of physical exercise--whoho!), then to the dog run where they are too distracted by the existing dogs to pay attention, then puts up fliers, then to the either person or newspaper referred to as the town crier, then to a corner, the coroner, e-mails the police station to see if anything's turned up, the Dairy Queen, the Super K, the market they used to shop at, the adoption agency (or "dating service" if we're going with the man/woman metaphorical interpretation) where she got the dog in the first place, then mortgages her house and checks with the police, goes either into jail or into the police force (a bit of a "Blancheflower" presage here too) to see if the dog's there, goes the pound where she donates some money, twice, but during none of these visits or activities does she turn up the actual dog. Finally, at the end of her rope, she goes to church on a Wednesday, where the dog is preaching a sermon, having converted to Christianity. (Presumably.) She has found him, but he has already found himself, and is lost to her in an emotional/spiritual way.

I'm making light of the metaphorical implications for human relationships above, but in fact they're probably there, just cloaked a bit intentionally by all the comedy. It's obviously an inversion of the old blues/country songs about losing your woman, except unlike most of these songs, the other party was 100% right to leave, plus the other party is a dog, and so this particular bit of silliness paves the way to blow past a lot of the self-pity that typically accompanies such my-woman-done-gone narratives. Of course, such narratives also sometimes involve the male narrator's dog leaving as well, but usually for no reason--it's just a sort of sign of the particular malaise of loserdom that's settled on his shoulders, chasing everything away--dog, truck, job, etc. So it's a man's I-lost-my-woman song (a modern version being Poison's "Shut Up And Make Love"--more examples welcome), except it's a woman who lost her dog. Who then finds religion. Which, again, is a common theme in the particular genres being played with here, "seeing the light" and so forth, the salvation of the church, sometimes the only one for those whose shoulders bear the loserdom miasma. Except here the salvation is for the one who left, and so in this way it's almost this song from the woman's perspective. But with a dog. So it's pretty much taking this conventional theme and twisting it nine ways from Sunday while still crafting a song that's rocking, catchy, and smart. Good job kids.

The other other nicest thing about this song is the melody, although I don't know really why. But it's fantastic.


Pretty much no narrative context--this is pretty much self-contained as far as I can tell, although I may change my mind later, which of course I am free to do. So let's talk themes.

As in a number of other songs, things don't work out like we'd expect them to--the dog is not regained, and, indeed, becomes a preacher, which dogs don't do that often. But plus, it doesn't even start from somewhere we'd expect--the simple fact that Eleanor's singing it calls attention to its oddness. In this particular case it's casting the woman out of the victim role and oddly enough casting her again in the kind of Jack-Lemmon-in-Glenngary-Glen-Ross loser role we also see prominently in "Straight Street." It's one that typically male, with the sort of failure leading to desperate grabbing that doesn't really characterize, say, the loser-archetype of chick lit.

Viewed in the context of the I-lost-my-woman song (ILMWs), where the dog leaving is usually the sort of last straw, the one thing that will love you unconditionally finally giving up, what's striking is how they've given agency back to the dog, who not only makes the choice to leave, but makes a further choice to improve his lot in life (arguably). Dogs can get hurt, as can people, and it's a remarkably un-self-centered song, refusing to view everything that happens through a lens of your own near-infallibility. There are possibilities out there for all of us, and the unexpected happens all the time. This is all further reinforced by the particular references that pepper the lyrics, most far removed from the mythologized Southern gothic (or Weimar Sunset strip) setting that characterize ILMWs--Dairy Queens, Super Ks, and e-mail on one hand, town criers and coroners on the other. Some things remain constant, like the police, the pound, and the market, but the way this is all intertwined with solidly modern realities makes the whole thing grounded in what we actually feel and experience than what we'd like to feel and experience, something at the root, I've always thought, of traditional blues and country songs. It's anti-romantic, and it's very nice.

But what separates this from the typical alt/art take on traditional forms is that it neither rehashes an outdated version of the form in miserabilist ways (the "Uncle Tupelo Thing") now does what I'll unfairly call the "Watchmen Thing," i.e. exposing the dark and troubling underlying assumptions etc. etc. The Furnaces make something related, undefensive, and new, gaining stength from the tangential connection with tradition but not depending on it. It switches so many elements it's no longer a simple twist or inversion--it's like an alternative summation of the form, a new history not interested in the old.