“A Case Emphatically in Favor of Songwriting Democracy within Bands”

Blame it all on Wolf Parade. Every song I like on Apologies to Queen Mary is an odd-numbered track, with the noted exception of “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts.” Every Wolf Parade song I like, it seems, is by Spencer Krug. Easy solution, just kick the other guy out of the band and you have addition by subtraction.

Well, it might not be EXACTLY that simple. For instance, why can Jack White never seem to pen a memorable anthem without Meg right there next to him, in tow? White’s best performance outside the Stripes is arguably his bass duties on Beck’s “Go it Alone.” And wouldn’t it make sense that the most important qualities inherent to life would be the most unexplainable?
Indeed, I can’t think of a single Swan Lake [1] tender ditty which suited my morning crumpets and tea. This is sort of like a reverse “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” thing, which I still hold to be a gravitational tenet, just more obviously the case with music. What becomes apparent from the Spencer Krug/Jack White phenomenon is that clouted importance of the inspir-ER, to be granted equal weight to the inspi-RED. Also notably, not only Wolf Parade but the Stripes, too, technically, engaged in egalitarian songwriting procedure. And while Meg’s muse progeny hardly make for mixtape heavyweights, neither do they typically render the album unenjoyable, to say nothing of the unlistenable.
Now, just to be clear, I am not offering here anything resembling a THEORETICAL case in favor or spreading the creative love; rather, I am basing my diction entirely on a posteriori manifestations — Wolf Parade, The White Stripes, and, most importantly, Pearl Jam. Each of these bands, in some instance or another, typifies how having multiple members writing songs adds dynamism and weight to the given LP project.
A case in the converse, the logically accordant alternative, is the Black Keys, and interestingly I even stumbled upon a person right away of my like mind on Prefix Magazine, in their Rubber Factory review which diagnosed the album as topheavy, [2] the quality tracks being mostly allotted to side A. Anyhow, here the group’s componential thinness, only having two members, and in which format the drummer never sings, curtails their endeavors of crafting an album of convincing completeness. [3]
Pearl Jam’s album Yield used to, when I was young, give me a really unsettled feeling. It was deep and emotionally ingenuous entirely to the point of awkwardness. Today, I put it on and it rocks with the best amalgamated qualities of punk rock and ’90’s acid alternative, but interestingly cosmic tracks like “No Way” can certainly be somewhat of a mind-fu**. It’s songwriting teamwork to an exalted extent, [4] to a schizophrenic, in fact, extent. Our idea of the lone crooner songwriter is emaciated by suffocating plurality, and the undeniable genuineness and integrity of the songs is tendered brilliantly by the comic relief interlude “Red Dot.” With each of the non-drummer members — Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, offering up the finest coined jewels that they have, not much room is left for jesting, so the familiar tactic of veteran producer Brendan O’Brien chimes in for just that, midway through the album, following the terraforming rocker “Do the Evolution.” In a capitalistic economy, market competition gives us the optimum purchasing experience, and as much as we typically like to ascribe to art elements of purity and ethereal splendor, it seems like the same process may be true in the crafting of rock songs for albums.
Addenda: Top 10 Wolf Parade tracks
10 “Call it a Ritual”
9 “Bang Your Drum”
8 “Language City”
7 “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son”
6 “Soldier’s Grin”
5 “California Dreamer”
4 “This Heart’s on Fire”
3 “Dinner Bells”
2 “Grounds for Divorce”
1 “I’ll Believe in Anything”
[1] Do not adjust your computer screen, this band is actually called fu**ing Swan Lake.
[2] To be exact, the review vouches only for Rubber Factory’s first four tracks, whereas I hold that it maintains strength through seven.
[3] Although amusingly, following the primary dip in song efficacy comes the titular plea for sympathy: “act nice and gentle to me.”
[4] Led Zeppelin successfully sued Pearl Jam for “Given to Fly”’s similarity to “Going to California,” but I personally find a more egregious plagiarism to take place in the Black Keys’ “Stack Shot Billy” by way of Moby’s “Natural Blues.”

382 thoughts on ““A Case Emphatically in Favor of Songwriting Democracy within Bands”

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