Friday, September 24, 2021

Sentiment, meet sound

The Voodoo Dolls, ca. 1992
Often, good rock and roll enacts its own argument; great rock and roll will attempt to subvert that argument. A song I love immoderately, the Voodoo Dolls' "The Good Part's Over," from their one and only album, 1993's Not For Sale, is a complaint about being alive and a tune that wants to put the lie to that complaint, at least for the two-and-a-half minutes it's around. The problem? Good stuff doesn't last, and that sucks. The solution? Turn it up. Yet a song has to finish, and the wrenching conclusion of "The Good Parts Over" only serves to prove the point that "It comes so fast, it goes so quick." A rock and roll paradox. Sentiment, meet sound.

The Voodoo Dolls were fronted by singer Cam Ackland, whose urgent and passionate vocals I've loved for a long time. (I wrote a bit about his earlier band, the Prime Movers, here.) Ackland really gets behind the pissed-off melancholy of the lyric here, you hear it in his voice, but his band—guitarist David Harrison, drummer Bruce Pierce, bassist Bob Martel, and guitarist Evan Shore, who wrote the tune with Ackland—won't let him get morose about it; they're too busy kicking ass. As usual, a blistering guitar solo adds a wordless voice to the singer's disillusionment, but of course neither guitar nor singer can solve the dilemma, as some blend of regret and wistfulness will always win out in the end. It's best to plug in, ride those thrilling chord changes, let the middle lift you high enough that a solution seems near, and then just cry at night, later, when you're alone and your ears are ringing.

The good news is that you can always lift the needle, turn up your stereo, and prove everyone wrong: the good part's just starting.


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