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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Song of the Week: 'South'

This song goes back a few years, but it felt appropriate to revisit it and give it a little tweak in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum. It was tempting to give it the epic production treatment, but the decision to exercise a little restraint was probably the right one. This version is just guitar, piano and some rudimentary percussion. An older version of the song utilised a ‘Hollywood western’-style guitar motif, but this less stylised reading avoids backing the listener’s interpretation into a corner.
The lyric expresses a certain ambivalence about the notion of a new geographical location being able to provide an answer to all (or any) of our problems. The protagonist, tired of chasing his tail for answers to life’s big questions, reflects on whether he has any real choice other than to pack up and hit the road. The all-embracing ‘young man, old man, bought man, sold man’ line of the chorus is designed to cover all bases, a statement about the ubiquitous power of delusion. At some level, most of us are occasionally tempted to believe that the grass is somehow greener on the other side.
There is an attempt at some Beach Boys-style vocals in the middle eight, wherein the theme of the lyric is neatly summarised by this simple line: “someplace somewhere else seems better … until we get there”.


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