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Behind The Song Let's Build An Airport EP

Behind The Song: [Everything Is] Broken

A Break

At the tail end on 2010 I had quit leading worship at my church, planning to spend a year recharging my batteries, learning about songwriting and writing every day. [Everything Is] Broken was one of the first of the new batch of tunes, though the basic lyrics date back to 2004.

At the time the concept ‘if a good God make the world why is it so messed up‘ was to me little more than an ‘apologetic’ device – an explanation for ‘non-churchgoers’ that might persuade them to sign up. But in the years since I wrote the song it’s given me a frame of reference to understand the ever-present darkness in my world, helping me deal with it in my own life and allowing it into in the art I make.

All These Broken Things

From the start the concept was that the structure of the song itself would reflect brokenness (something I call madrigalism), musically I decided to write the verse in mostly 7/4 which gives an impression of a missing beat. I wanted to use a string trio, or rather, a ‘broken’ quartet with the second violin missing. (This is why I ended up using a trio on Brother Bull and Better For Me too). There are no drums for the same reason. The song breaks down towards the end interrupted by ‘random’ samples and the vocal degrading and the last word missing.

In the lyrics there are 18 broken things

Shattered frame
Torn photograph
Broken home – his daddy doesn’t live here anymore
Wedding vows – unmade
A mug that’s chipped
Broken skin – cuts her lip
Broken sentences – staccato, each incomplete
Stillborn baby
CD player
Broken peace treaty – torn up
A hairline fracture in the universe
Broken Earth – cranky and she’s getting worse
Broken city – split by an earthquake
The church boiler
The church heating pipes
The choirboy’s voice
The communion bread
Christ’s body

Development

The song was written as a distorted solo rocker in Am – imagine if If Billy Bragg joined a discipleship group led by Derek Webb, or if CS Lewis secretly hankered after playing in Iron Maiden. On the demo, the distorted guitar, my amp crapping out and my voice cracking as I screamed my head off all seemed to reflect the subject matter, but my producer friend Mark pointed out that the song didn’t sit with any of the other material on my EP. So I dialled back the mayhem, transposed it down, played fuller chords capoed at the 3rd fret. When I tracked the guitar I did what I call a ‘Lennon Extension‘ by accidentally adding an extra beat into one of the prechoruses. A happy accident.

I agree with Chris Cornell from Soundgarden when he says he likes writing in odd meters because it feels like there’s only one melody that it can possibly be.

Wachowskitarianism

Observant Christians might wonder what’s up with the weird church service. It has real bread (not wafers) like a pentecostal church but has a Priest and an old building (like a Catholic church) and they have the wine before the bread (like no church I’ve ever encountered). I guess that’s what they called poetic licence. In my mind it’s church as imagined by Frank Miller or the Wachowski brothers. (I do not attend a church like this).

The concept of a fracture in the universe comes from a 2009 Easter sermon by Matt Chandler, “red wine burning in my chest” came from a journal entry about taking communion in an Anglican church and “the earth is cranky” came from somewhere else that I can’t remember.

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Live Video

[Everything Is] Broken Live

Video shot by Roo Inns at the Golden Fleece Open Mic July 2013 – Rachel McClean on Cello.

Buy the song here

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A Blog's Life Let's Build An Airport EP

Let’s Build An Airport – The Demos

Last chance for demos!

I’m getting very close to releasing my EP Let’s Build An Airport. The single will be available from Feb 14th and the EP goes on sale on Mar 18th. At the moment you can hear demos of all the tracks on my Song Vault page but I’ll be taking them down forever at the end of next week.

So whether you’re a Matt Blick completist or just a cheapskate here’s the direct links

[Everything Is] Broken – original ‘heavy metal’ version
I Got Lost – original FAWM demo
Let’s Build An Airport – 2nd demo
Better For Me If I’d Never Been Born – home demo
Brother Bull – ‘Live in the studio’ pre-production version with deleted verse and original coda.

Categories
Songwriting Theology

Can I Be Honest?

 

David and Jesus and I make three
Singing “Oh my God, why have you forsaken me’
They got happy endings as you might expect
But I’m stuck here between the now and the not-yet

I posted my most recent new song last week, Fingernails, which is the kind of “no punches pulled” song that I’ve been trying to write since I came up with I Got Lost last Feb. A friend was kind enough to email me saying

“I respect your courage in writing emotionally complex songs about faith. A lot of the Christian music that’s found its way to my ears over the years has been really dead-simple and unquestioning, and it rings false—but I clearly hear a human voice and a mind at work in this one. I hear conflict and complexity”.

Not to toot my own horn but it made me reflect on the irony that the Psalms is full of a gut-wrenching emotional honesty that contemporary Christian music seems largely devoid of. I’ve had nearly 18 months of working through a kind of self censorship ‘you can’t say THAT in a song’ that I must have just breathed in from the Christian sub culture.

In another song that is less personal – Everything Is Broken, I wrote about all the brokenness due to the fall we see in nature, relationships, governments – everything. The final verse ends

I start to understand as he breaks the bread
Red wine burning deep into my chest
You said “This is my body”
And your body just like everything was…broken

and with the ray of hope that God does not stand outside our pain but is intimately involved and shares our suffering the song switches to the major key for the first time. But I felt at the time the pressure to tie everything up with a neat bow. To explain how God will wipe away every tear, make sense of it all, provide answers, bring redemption.

But life isn’t like that in the here and now. It takes the Bible over a thousand pages to get to ‘and they all lived happily ever after’. A good preacher can lay it all out in 30 minutes. Why do we expect every three minute pop song to cram in everything that needs to be said?

What do you think?

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Let's Build An Airport EP

Studio Update 5

Heading back to the studio for one last time on Thurs and then we’re finished. I’m really behind with these videos but here’s the next installment.

Recording this album has been a little like doing an oil painting by staring at the canvas for 3 weeks, then painting one red line, then staring some more, then painting two yellow lines a fortnight later. It’s hard to view it as a complete picture. But we’re getting there…

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Let's Build An Airport EP Song Vault

Everything Is Broken

If God were only strong, not kind, or God were only kind, but weak
An odd-time hard folk, head-on collision with human suffering.
Download     Lyrics (pdf)     Buy mp3     Behind The Song

Shattered frame, photograph all torn
His Daddy doesn’t live here anymore
And the lawyers are the only ones on speaking terms.
I try to tell the boy he’s not to blame
For the vows that Mum and Dad unmade
But words can wound in ways no words can ever heal.

She’s drinking coffee from a mug that’s chipped
Warms her hands, cuts her lip
As she tries to give birth to all the pain within.
Pours out her heart, staring at her feet
Staccato sentences each incomplete
The baby she was carrying in her womb is gone.

If God were only strong, not kind
Or God were only kind but weak
I wouldn’t have to try to find
Words I’m not afraid to speak
When answers sound so trite and incomplete but…

Everything…every thing is…
Everything is broken.

Take a drive try to clear my head
The news is on ‘cos the CD’s dead
They say another peace treaty was torn up today.
Must be a hairline fracture in the universe
The Earth is cranky and she’s getting worse
300 dead, a city split just like an open wound.

If God were only strong, not kind
Or God were only kind but weak
I wouldn’t have to try to find
Words I’m not afraid to speak
When answers sound so trite and incomplete but…

Everything…every thing is…
Everything is broken.

I search for clues in a freezing Church
The boiler’s dead, the pipes have burst
The priest flinches as the choirboy’s voice begins to crack.
I start to understand as he breaks the bread
Red wine burning deep into my chest
You said, “This is my body”

And your body, just like everything…
Just like every thing was…
Just like everything was broken.

More songs in the demo vault