It's Not Like You

October 20, 2011 1:18 PM

How well do you really know anyone?


Outside, high
Inside, suicide
Things we try to hide away
Find their way out one day

So come and walk with me
Down this bright and shabby street
Look around you, look around at the windows, the lights
You’ll only see what somebody will let you see
The secret heart
Keeps us apart

It’s not like you to look away
When I say “It’s not like you to hesitate”
Or to stay late with your old mate
That’s not like you
And it’s not like me to question you, but I do
It’s not like me to be afraid of those sad eyes
Do they tell lies?
That’s not like me.

Words are weak
Actions really speak
Smiles and jokes and sighs are just the little spokes
They spin
They blur
Cloak and choke

It’s not like you to work away for a day
It’s not like you to call and say
Are you happy?
Really happy?
That’s not like you
And it’s not like me to play the fool, acting cool
It’s not like me to cry at night
Or to hold tight, it’ll come right
That’s not like me

It’s not like you to lie awake till day breaks
It’s not like you to say “It’s late”
When I ask you can we talk it through?
That’s not like you
And it’s not like me to question you, but I do
It’s not like me to be afraid of those sad eyes
Do they tell lies?
That’s not like me.


Technical guff for those so inclined:
Riff guitar: Fender Telecaster
Solo guitar: Gibson SG Special (with chewy P90s)
Backing guitars: Tele and SG
Percussion: shakers and sticks and stuff
All other instrumentation: Korg Triton LE
Amp: Fender SuperChamp
Mics: SM57, Rode K2
Pre-amp: Focusrite ISA1
Recorder: Yamaha AW2400
Studio: The Gin Palace, Bristol, England

posted by MajorDundee (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Sweet melancholy song, MD, and I love your chops on the SG.
posted by snsranch at 5:34 PM on October 21, 2011

You'll probably hate this but I enjoyed hearing your voice in the quieter bells and panflute parts. Felt more stripped-down; I could hear more of you and the room you're in a bit more and I love that; feels like a real person and not just a recording.

Also I should probably get your opinion on SG's as that is my next dream guitar. Not that I will be able to afford one any time in the near future.
posted by chococat at 10:57 PM on October 21, 2011

Thanks both. I don't hate that comment at all chococat - I wasn't sure that that kind of inverse chorus (i.e. going quieter rather than louder) would work. It's a fluke that the vocal sounds passable there - kind of naive and artless. I think that may be why you like it more than anything - it sounds like someone who isn't a singer (which is true) and that's what makes it more real.

The SG on this is the Gibson SG Special 60's Tribute. These are, allegedly, a limited edition. Point is - they're dirt cheap so far as Gibsons go. Very low spec, no frills. And actually very rock & roll as a result imho. The P90's are great - I love 'em - and as someone who's not that fond of humbuckers they're pretty well perfect. Only problem with P90's is they can be very noisy. But I can live with that and I can gate most of it away. My SG cost under £600 (from Germany) but I'd bet you could get one on your side of the pond a lot cheaper than that. The only thing to be careful about with these is that because they're comparatively cheap Gibson aren't overly fussy about finish etc. You can get them with bodies made of up to 4 bits of mahogany and sometimes they're not very well matched. If you're after the natural finish - like mine - badly matched wood can look really shit. Mine is 3 pieces that fortunately are failry well matched. The holy grail is a 2-piece (there are, I believe, even a few one-piece bodies around). There is also a Les Paul version btw. Also cheap. But with the same caution re finish. Neil Young's Les Paul is actually one of these (an original one, clearly).
posted by MajorDundee at 12:29 PM on October 22, 2011

Just for the sake of completeness, and since you asked, a little bit more on SGs.

Gibson have, of late, rather confused things by issuing SG Specials with humbuckers and SG Standards that look, at first glance, like SG Specials.

Back in the day, things were much simpler. An SG Special had (a) P90s, (b) dot postion markers, (c)plastic button-shaped tuners and (d) a much larger scratchplate. SG Standards had (a) humbuckers, (b) trapezoid position markers, (c) plastic "Green Key" tulip tuners and (d) comparatively small scratchplates. They also had a slightly fancier finish. These guitars sounded very different from each other. And then you had the top-end SG Custom with (a) 3 humbuckers (mostly but not always), (b) an ebony fingerboard and (c) the fancy headstock decal and fancy edge binding. There were various other models issued from time-to-time: SG Junior (one pickup - very cool), variants with bigsbys, and even a 12-string one (recently reissued as some kind of 50th Anniversary nonsense).

Today the SG Special (as I'd define it) is called, I believe, the SG Classic. Unless you get one like my 60's Tribute.....which is confusingly also referred to as an SG Special. There is now an SG Special with humbuckers (minus covers) and big scratchplates and worn finishes that is, apart from my P90 one, the entry level. Oh and there are still SG Standards - also with humbuckers and bigger price tags. And customs that cost the earth.

Confused? Join the club. Frankly, all you need to know is that the key distinction with SGs is the pickups. All the humbucker ones sound pretty much the same imho. The P90s don't sound like them at all. I think you'd struggle sonically to distinguish between one of the humbucker SG Specials and the far more expensive Standards. So if you don't want P90s, don't waste your money on an expensive "Standard" - it won't sound different enough to justify the additional outlay.

Exhausted now - must have a beer.
posted by MajorDundee at 1:04 PM on October 22, 2011

Those SGs are $799 from Musician's Friend but I'm pretty sure there was one in the Burlington Long & McQuade a couple of weeks ago for a lot less. I agree with Major about the P90s -- I actually went in to buy something with P90s but I came out with that black Jaguar instead.

I love the TV yellow Les Paul with the P90s too.

I need to listen to this again, Major -- I have some thoughts.
posted by unSane at 5:32 PM on October 22, 2011

Or maybe it was Mississauga - worth a call anyway.
posted by unSane at 5:34 PM on October 22, 2011

Okay, on second listen: totally dug the vibrato guitars and the pristine production. I have absolutely no idea how you get everything sounding so clean, Major. I also enjoyed your vocal a lot on this. You have a Chris de Burgh / Knopfler thing going on which I really like -- it's very characterful. And the lyric is great. I keep telling you that you're a good lyric writer... hope it's sinking in.

The weak points for me are the drums.. I always want to hear some proper drums on your stuff... those Triton toms are so freakin' weedy. Would make so much difference... and you obviously know how to program them.

The other thing, and you're gonna hate me for this, is that the guitar solos, while super-adept, are not really driving the song along, more of a kind of meandering accompaniment. I think you have great songwriting chops and you should really corral your expertise on the guitar and make it work harder to support that. There were lot of interesting things happening in the solos in terms of the scales and techniques you were using. But it felt a bit like 'ok, now we're going to have the solo part', where the rest of the band takes a step back, and someone plays, and the supper club applauds, as opposed to the solo being a really integral part of the song. A bit that you couldn't edit out in protools.

In short, it's often the case that what we think are our weaknesses are our strengths, and what we think are our strengths are our weaknesses. Now I need to go and lie down. Or at least finish this Martini.
posted by unSane at 9:32 PM on October 22, 2011

I think that's the first time in, what, 30 years that I've ever heard anyone criticise my guitar playing Congratulations! It elicited a lol reaction to start with, followed by a degree of incredulity. I obviously disagree with you that it's mere embroidery (it's melodically strong and there are elements in it that you simply won't get from a standard rock guitarist), but you're of course entitled to your opinion. I also disagree re. songwriting and lyrical chops. My strength is and always has been my guitar playing - everying else is a poor second to that. The writing is increasingly a distraction and one that rarely brings the same level of satisfaction because it's never going to be of a standard equal to the guitar playing. Oh and you're right about the drums. They are indeed crap. But then, these are just throwaway demos of songs that are unlikely to yield fame or fortune, so.......hey ho.
posted by MajorDundee at 9:53 AM on October 23, 2011

I think you misunderstood me, Major, or more likely I expressed myself badly. I'm not criticizing the guitar playing GOD FORBID, which you are right about. I'm suggesting that you integrate it more into the song itself somehow, maybe by having the solo guitar do work around the vocal in the verses or choruses, or maybe by constructing the song around the guitar solo in the way that Television or Jimi did. Your playing is obviously extremely strong -- I'm suggesting it could do more work in the song, bear more of the burden so to speak. Other examples that spring to mind, which no doubt you'll hate -- Steely Dan, Dinosaur Jr, Wilko-era Dr Feelgood.

Maybe it's just me but I really hate that moment, even with the absolute strongest guitarists, where we get the 'it's time for the guitar solo' part of the song.

In my less than humble opinion really great solos pick the song up in their teeth, fling it around the room, and put it down in a completely different, higher place. Your guitar playing is easily good enough to do that but it would mean constructing this particular song a bit differently and, I'm suggesting, integrating the solo work more solidly, instead of using it as a kind of vehicle.

Think of it this way: if you were doing a radio edit with a gun to your head and you had to lose 45 seconds out of the song, could you lift out the solo without structurally destroying the song?
posted by unSane at 10:34 AM on October 23, 2011

I should also point out the Martini in question was not my first.
posted by unSane at 11:56 AM on October 23, 2011

I know exactly what you mean. I think there are at least a couple of problems here for me.

One is to do with how my hearing changes completely when I'm looking at a track as a producer rather than a guitarist - but that's way too complicated (and contradictory) to explain succinctly here. It is the reason though why my recordings are clean and clear, and intentionally so.

Another problem for me is that my best soloing/playing is always spontaneous. But it's hard to do that when you're having to think about everything else too and also when nothing is "live". And, yes, there can be a tendency to be formulaic and see the solo slot as a kind of intermission between the main bits of the song. For me it's the only bit of a "performance" that I actually can enjoy - everything else usually becomes a bit of a slog, particularly the singing (which I hate). So there's a kind of "this bit's for me" thing going on with the solo slots. If I was in a band situation as a sideman I would be freer to do the kind of thing you're talking about.

This particular track is too long and, perversely, perhaps a little underwritten. It could do with editing. And the first temptation would maybe be to lose the solo in the middle. But it serves a structural purpose as a middle eight. Without it the the song doesn't vary enough to sustain interest.
posted by MajorDundee at 12:05 PM on October 23, 2011

Not to force us into the shallows of technicals, but how *do* you get it sounding so clean, Major? You have such a distinctive production style that's the complete opposite of mine... I'd love to know how you get so much space.

I know you say it's complicated but can you expand a bit on your second para above?
posted by unSane at 5:20 AM on October 24, 2011

Not sure I believe that entirely, but for what it's worth here's some things in no particular order.

A cliche, but true: keep it simple. In every aspect.

Build the track round the focal point of the song. Usually the vocal. Don't record the whole backing track and then dump the vocal on top. Do it the other way round as far as possible. Get a vocal down early in the process - even if you're singing complete nonsense.

Use as little EQ and other processing as possible. Try to get a good sound at source and record that. If you find yourself having to EQ the hell out of something it's probably shit to start with.

Use gates on noisy instruments - don't record shit and noise.

Be careful with delays. Keep reverb tails as short as you can. Listen to the reverb in isolation if you can. You'll hear how much gloop there is washing around in the back of the mix. Cut it down to the minimum, and then cut a bit more.

Use reverb/delay to create a 3D sound. Don't be afraid to use no reverb at all. The best recordings are where you're not aware of how the reverb is being used to create the illusion of depth and space. And it is precisely that: an illusion, just like the use of perspective in fine art.

Don't layer things unless you can really justify it. Most tracks really don't need 14 rhythm guitars. If you get a good sound and record it well, one guitar will do. All comes back to the point about getting a good source sound. The more layers you add - even apparently playing the same thing - the more gunge in the track. If you find yourself thinking it needs loads more guitars or whatever to make it bigger, it might simply be that the part being played is no good.

Beware of masking effects. Use EQ and panning to separate out instruments occupying the same sonic territory. If you can't separate things out - be ruthless. Cut out one of the things being masked. No-one will be able to hear it anyway.

Ask yourself "is this actually contributing/doing anything?" when you feel the itch to add just a little bit more guitar or whatever.

Record as quickly as possible. Or if you can't, don't slog at something for weeks. leave it and come back to it. Reason: your ears get tired. This has many drawbacks, some less obvious than others. One less obvious but nevertheless trite one is that you simply get bored with the track. You've heard it dozens of times and it's beginning to get stale. What do you do? You think it needs something extra to lift it. It probably doesn't. What it needs is for you to leave it alone for a while.

Listen to the whole track when mixing. Don't focus on individual tracks for longer than a few seconds. If you fuck about with, say the bass, for half an hour and get a terrific bass sound on its own, when you then put it back in the track you might find your great bass has screwed the entire mix. All the tracks exist in dynamic equilibrium. On their own they might sound shit, but they work as part of a whole. I've heard multitracks of really well-known hit records where the individual tracks sound really pretty rough.

Be prepared to sacrifice apparently good ideas that pop up in the recording process. Or even the basic idea that triggered the song if something better emerges in the process. Don't shove every new idea into the track, no matter how good it apparently is. You'll probably fuck it up. If they can't be slotted into the mix easily and make a real contribution, keep the ideas and use them in something else. I quite often end up recording two or three songs at once - the result of new ideas popping up. These spin-offs are often better than the principal track. Go figure.
posted by MajorDundee at 12:22 PM on October 24, 2011

Actually I could have summed that up far more succinctly. My ultimate sonic goal is Dylan's "Mississippi": stunning in every way - musically, lyrically, sonically.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:54 PM on October 28, 2011

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