Monday, January 30, 2012

Song #105 of 9999 - Chemical by Joseph Arthur

Song #105 of 9999

Title: Chemical
Artist: Joseph Arthur
Year: 2000
Album: Come To Where I'm From

Whenever an artist is "discovered" by a big name like Peter Gabriel, expectations run high. Joseph Arthur was the first artist signed to Gabriel's Real World Records in 1996 and was invited to join Gabriel's WOMAD tour following his first release in 1997. Arthur made a bigger, but still modest, splash with his more polished sophomore effort Come To Where I'm From. It featured the single "In the Sun," a lovely song that has the unfortunate distinction of being perfect for contemplative moments in episodes of "Scrubs" or the like. It's an obvious single that would quickly melt the hearts of adult contemporary listeners everywhere.

I really like "In the Sun" but I never thought it fully represented Arthur's style, which is often described as folk-punk or experimental folk-rock. The guy has an edge that is sometimes his worst enemy (avoid his records with The Lonely Astronauts) and an artistic side that is interesting and successful but occasionally gets in the way of his music. Anyway, as it turns out "In the Sun" was actually the second release from Come To Where I'm From, following "Chemical."

"Chemical" is much more indicative of Arthur's style. I was surprised a little by how much it sounds like Beck, but then I was surprised by how much a lot of music from 2000 sounded like Beck while doing my research this week. The dirty guitar and veiled production remind me of another dark loner, the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. What I really love about this song, though, is the extended multi-part chorus. You get the sustained title in falsetto three times, then the call-and-response section that begins with "I'm putting myself in jail" and then yet another section that begins with "I don't know the way..." before returning to the verse. This kind of thing always impresses me because I never think to do it in my own songs!

Incidentally, Arthur just released a double album that is 100% free to download from his website. You can get it here.

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