Watching Noel Fielding‘s new show Luxury Comedy I was blown away by his level of
inventiveness, It seemed like every millimetre of the show was packed with originality – sets, dialogue, costumes, characterisation, plot (or lack of) and crazy DIY special effects.
And yet it didn’t make me laugh.
When you find yourself desperately trying to like something is a good exercise to ask why. Sometimes it’s peer pressure (everyone says Mozart’s a genius) sometimes it’s a shared history/loyalty with the band (who’s gonna fly the grumpy shoegazer rockstar banner now Radiohead have gone electro?) sometimes it’s financial (I just took out a second mortgage for this Brian Wilson box set).
would be the kind of show that The Goons would be making if they were around now. I love the Goons. I LOVE the Goons. Why do I connect with this show that ended before I was even born, but not it’s descendant? Am I like some weirdo who prefers hanging out with his schoolmate’s dads?
The Goon Show was a bizarre blend of surrealism, subtle anti-establishment satire and corny old musical hall jokes. In the midst of the whacked out nonsense there was often a gag with a mental age of 3. That for me is the key. The corny jokes were something to latch onto until you got acclimatised to the surreal atmosphere.
And that’s our songwriting lesson.
If you’re seeking to go out on a limb in your songwriting make sure there is some familiar landmark that your listeners can grab onto.
Wanna have your song use multiple time signatures? At the same time? Maybe have really simple lyrics that everyone can relate to. Or want to set your thesis about product placement in the history of colonial Nigeria to music? Try using a simple chord progression and melody. Is your medley complex and atonal? Don’t play it on a saw.
Or do. If you must.
But whenever you find yourself climbing to the tippy top branch of the crazy tree or falling down the rabbit hole of artistic self indulgence, remember to put in a some familiar little detail, something that reminds your listeners of home. A simple sign that says “You Are Here”.
Postscript: At the very least, do the weird part a couple of times in a row. “Repetition makes the strange familiar” – Nicholas Tozier
Free songs by Matt Blick