Daily Song Study

The Lightning Seeds – The Life of Riley

In songs on January 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

Some people want to fill the world with silly pop songs. And what’s wrong with that, Ian Broudie would like to know.

The Lightning Seeds were essentially Broudie’s solo project, after making a name for himself as a producer of post-punk bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and the Fall. The style of this tune is tightly dialed in to pre-grunge early 1990s alterna-pop, from that tiny melodic-songwriting boom that I’ve mentioned before.

There’s nothing deep and heavy about the song, and in this case, that is its strength. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to have you singing along as it plays pleasantly and unobtrusively over pretty much any overhead speaker in any environment. Making songs that are memorable without being arresting is rather difficult, and it’s actually not a bad goal.

Songwriters often think (and I have been guilty of this) that the world should stop, sit down and listen to their music in order to get the full effect. That’s nice when it happens, but truthfully there are very few times in most people’s lives when they can just sit and listen to music. There are albums that I have to listen to that way because they do make demands on the listener that distractions can hamper. I treasure those albums, but if that were the only kind of music in my collection, I would scarcely have time to listen to anything. Songs that can be heard in the context of non-musical stimuli are valuable, too.

That’s not just a Muzak position. Respected artists like Brian Eno have been saying the same thing for decades. While it’s possible to go too far in making your songs blend into the broader palette of the world (such that they don’t make any impression whatsoever), it is also possible to focus so much on listening-room aesthetics that the tunes don’t get heard at all. That sort of approach makes good tragic-artist biography, but it needn’t be the only option.

In the case of today’s piece, Broudie has obviously decided that a pop song is a pop song, and by gar, he’s going to deliver it. Well played, sir.

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