Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 : 07 "Lisztomania" by Phoenix

I spent a lot of time this year listening to this song and trying to make some sense out of its lyrics. The opening couplet reveals some sense of the futility of this task:

So sentimental
Not sentimental, no

If the underlying rhythm and melody weren't so joyous and energetic, one could mistake this tiny packet of self-canceling non-referentiality for a very compact Samuel Beckett play. The refrain doesn't exactly clarify matters:

Think less but see it grow
Like a riot, like a riot, oh
Not easily offended
Not hard to let it go
From the mess [?] to the masses

Um, OK? There's at least a noun here, relatively close to the pronoun... so... is this a song about the composer? Or about this film? Or... is "Lisztomania" a stand-in for popular manias of all sorts? That helps the "riot" lines to make sense, and maybe the thing about the "masses," but it doesn't really help with the stuff about being not hard to offend, or reveal anything akin to a point of view…

And so it went. The opacity of the song (the entire album, actually) bugged me, and then all it once it didn't anymore. When I was able to accept the lyrical content as rather inspired word salad, it freed me up to enjoy the album's bittersweet, nostalgic elation, which is actually communicated to the listener with absolute clarity.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Phoenix >> "Lisztomania"

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