Posts in Pop
Andy McCluskey, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD)

It's a tribute to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark that the sound they helped create, the shimmering synth pop that was so innovative when the band started three decades ago, is now de rigueur in music. OMD is out with a new album called History of Modern; it's their first in fourteen years and their first in over twenty with the 1980s "If You Leave" lineup.  It comes at an appropriate time, given the popularity of synth pop and the band's influence on groups like The xx and LCD Soundsytem. And the public has responded: OMD were conservative when booking venues on this tour, but now they are having to book second shows in some cities and move shows to bigger venues in others.

When it came to making History of Modern, Andy McCluskey, the band's singer and co-songwriter with Paul Humphreys, told me, "We analyzed our history and realized that we had created our own musical voice with the first four albums, and we wanted to go back to expressing ourselves in the language we invented ourselves.   We had to strike that balance between something that was OMD but also not some nostalgia trip."

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Chris Difford, Squeeze

When Chris Difford of Squeeze sits down to write a song, there's actually two Chris Diffords in the room: the one at the desk penning the lyrics, and the one on the couch in the corner telling the one at the desk how he feels.  It's those feelings that form the basis for Difford's songs; for him, the songwriting process is "cathartic. . .like keeping a diary."

There's not much I can say in this introduction about the songwriting duo of Difford and Glenn Tilbrook that hasn't been said somewhere else.  For over 35 years, they've adhered to the same routine: Difford writes the lyrics and Tilbrook writes the music.  The result has been some of the most well-crafted and memorable pop songs: "Tempted," "Cool for Cats," "Black Coffee in Bed," "Pulling Mussels from a Shell," "Is That Love," "Hourglass,". . . the list goes on.  They are certainly one of the most legendary (and I will also say strongest) songwriting duos in rock history. If you know music, there is no need for me to extol their excellence.  But if you need proof, there's this: Difford wrote the lyrics to "Tempted" in about two and a half minutes in the back of a cab.  And that first draft was the only draft: he didn't change a word from what he wrote in that back seat.

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Grace Potter, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals

Ah, the topics of inspirations for songwriters: love, heartbreak, the wind, the trees, the water, the conversations around them . . . and, in Grace Potter's case,  the Plan B contraceptive pill

Sure, the frontwoman of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals gets inspired by the usually bevy of songwriting topics, but she gets inspired everywhere—even, as you’ll read, by a Plan B birth pill commercial that she saw while in her hotel room.  Of course, the theme has universality—the “doings and undoings” in life—but Potter’s ability to be inspired anywhere is a part of her songwriting talent.  Perhaps it started in her high school English class, where she found great value in the brainstorming technique called freewriting, those bursts of five minute stream-of-consciousness writing sessions where you never stop writing.  Even if you can’t think of a topic, you write, “I can’t think of a topic.”  High school, as you’ll find out, was also a place where Potter staged a mini-revolt against the computer as a symbol of technology.  She preferred to compose on a typewriter, so she typed a manifesto of sorts to the students and taped it up around the school, advocating something to the effect of “kill the computer.”

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