At work, I've been put in charge of the CD section (I'm also in charge of Adult Fiction, Teen Fiction, Adult Magazines, Teen Magazines, Comics, and Graphic Novels, but I digress...). Quite a chore, I'll come right out and admit, because the cataloging is very confusing and also because patrons are lazy and just stick CDs back in any old place. Well, two nights ago, I was filing returned CDs when I came across one that I recognized the cover art on. I'm not sure where I'd seen it before, but my recognition of any cover art is kind of a big deal (despite my admittedly feeble efforts to broaden my musical horizons, my knowledge of popular music remains limited). So I checked it out. It was When the World Comes Down by All-American Rejects.
Given that they're a popular rock band and making lots of money, I wasn't expecting anything profound. In fact I was expecting something pretty conventional... and was pleasantly surprised. True, they sound a lot like other bands I've heard, but as I listened to the CD in my car, I noticed some pretty novel things. Like Strings. They use violins and some other string instruments in some of their songs. Can't say I was expecting that. And the tambourine. Now, I know the tambourine has been in rock music for awhile, but you don't hear it so often anymore and, well it surprised me. I think, once, I may have heard a snare drum, there was definitely piano, and in some of their songs, they have large choral groups in the background singing harmonies, like church choir style. So, all in all I was pretty impressed with the group's usage of not-so-conventional tools (I won't go as far as to call them unconventional, but I've gotta give them some credit).
And, to allude back to that conversation we had about love songs quite a while ago, I was also surprised that the expected themes from a group of all men were largely absent. So often (too often), the story goes as such: the girl leaves, the guy is heartbroken, the guy proceeds to write sad songs about how he misses her and how he wants her back (some hard rock groups nowadays will have a song with more of a "good riddance" theme, but these aren't so common and are even less common from groups of all guys). Not so with the songs on this CD. Many of them express a resigned, unrequited love. Some are more of a "gosh you stupid girl, can't you see what's in from of you?!" type theme. And yes, the song on which this CD bases its popularity, "Gives You Hell," is that "good riddance" song mentioned before. All of this was actually refreshing. Personally, I get tired of the whiny, "I want you back" love songs, especially when a relationship is supposed to be a mutual thing. The guy should get a say in it too, rather than following the girl around like a lost puppy (no offense meant to the Beatles. "Puppy Love" is a very catchy song).
* Speaking of the Beatles, I have an embarrassing confession to make. So, a few years ago I danced to the song Blackbird, and decided that I really like it. Very pretty song (and I tend to develop a liking for almost any song I dance to). Anyway... I only recently realized that it was by the Beatles. Yes, I'm culturally estranged, I know. But I'm working on it!