Thursday, September 26, 2013

Song #365 of 9999 - Coppertone by Fini Scad

It's Guest Blogger Night again here at 9999 Songs. Tonight, I hand the keyboard over to my pal David Kowalski, who hails from a Land Down Under (that's Australia, mate!). Dave is a professional educator, musician, composer, amateur musicologist, and a man "on a constant search for more good music." He maintains a blog called The Sound and the Fury, which I encourage you to check out. When he's not doing all this fun stuff, Dave teaches computing to high school kids but more impressively (and perhaps more dangerously) he teaches 13 year olds "how to use tools so that they don't hurt themselves while joining pieces of wood together."

Song #365 of 9999

Title: Coppertone
Artist: Fini Scad
Year: 1996
Album: Testrider (EP)

Most people know that Sydney is Australia's largest and most densely populated city. The northern Sydney suburb of Hornsby, as far as suburbs go, is pretty innocuous. It’s right on the very outer edge of an affluent area known as the North Shore. As with most cities, the further one gets from the city centre, the less affluent the suburbs become. Thus, it has lots of medium density housing, a couple of small pubs that double as gig venues and a big mother of a shopping centre named Westfield. Hornsby is a major junction on the train line, being the intersection of the northern line and the North Shore line to the city. It is an hour’s drive due east to the beaches of Bondi and Coogee, or about 45 minutes if you head northeast to the pristine beaches of the Central Coast. It was from this ordinariness that Fini Scad and their sunshine-and-surf filled sound were born.

Fini Scad's first ep, entitled Testrider was part of the soundtrack of summer 96/ 97 and it contained this great radio hit “Coppertone”. Given the fact that the track is so gloriously sunny, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were singing about a brand of sunscreen. Personally, I think, that the title alludes to a girl who had coloured her hair. It was (and still is, to a degree) common for girls with blonde hair to take the edge of it with a copper (or other) coloured tint.

The lyric seems to support the hair-colouring theory:
“...let go of my hand, Coppertone…”
Structurally, the song has a rather interesting chord sequence. It’s hard to suggest whether this is more of a modal piece, or deliberately structured with upward modulations in order to enhance the tension and release of the song’s mood. The song starts with a pedal on C major, with a quick passing chord back to B-flat for the last one-and-a-half beats of the four bar repeating phrase. For the instrumental section breaking up the two verses, there’s an upward modulation to D5 for four bars before returning to the C Major section in the verse, returning to D Major for the chorus.

The modulations use what I like to call the “Roxette effect” (named after the Swedish band who frequently use modulations between verse and chorus without following any of the correct rules for changing key. See “Vulnerable” and “Sleeping in My Car”). SLAM! Into that chorus, crashing in on a D Major, then E minor-B Minor-D Major-G Major-D Major. The end of the first chorus has this amazing hang on the B-Minor (F# in the vocal line), creating a chromatic pivot resolution back to C Major of the verse. Whether intentional or accidental, it give me goosebumps!

Back into D Major for the chorus and then, without warning, the outro kicks in, this time in E Minor. This serves the purpose of ramping up the intensity of the failed/broken relationship of the lyric by taking it into broody, sultry emotional territory. The vocal line, heavily treated with reverb, wafts over the top of the mix in such a fashion that you never really work out what is being said, but it just adds that little bit of extra suspenseful ambience.

Fini Scad had some success in the ensuing years, with their debut album in 1998 Wider Screen selling in respectful quantities. Its success saw the band play on major festival stages around the country during this period. Unfortunately for them, the band has been all but forgotten and the music is out of print, both in physical and streaming modes; relegated to the scrap-heap of Australian rock history now, lost in the shuffle of record company takeovers and mainstream media indifference. They do, however, live on in the hearts of those who saw them in sweaty pubs, festival stages, heard them on alternative rock radio and bought their me.

No comments:

Post a Comment