Monday, May 29, 2006


For your listening pleasure, here are two soldiers' stories delivered without rose-colored romanticism. I could never stand the nauseating portrayals of militarymen in film, with low camera angles and corny rallying cries it just doesn't resonate with me. What really turns my head are tales of soldiers, ordinary everymen, who conquer their feelings of homesickness and self-doubt in order to complete their missions. These are the qualities I love, not the 2D cutouts populating the silver screen, but real stories of internal conflict and emotional ascension.

Tom Waits - Shore Leave

Mr. Waits loves to write about rain almost as much as he loves to write about sailors. Anyone familiar with Tom knows his voice, that dirty growl of a voice. There is nothing mythic about the protagonist in this song. While on shore leave he strolls around town playing billiards with a midget, buying cards "with girls on the back" and talks baseball with the locals. That's when the chorus comes in and Waits goes from speaking to pleading, he's lonely, plain and simple. He wanted us to think he was cool, without worry, but the truth comes out, his lover is waiting back home for him and he's unable to communicate with her. The agony of separation is revealed through his damaged voice.

Billy Bragg & Wilco - When the Roses Bloom Again

This second song is originally Woody Guthrie's version of a traditional tune. Listen to the trembling swell of the organ and notice how it mirrors Tweedy's singing, his voice seems as though it's ready to fail him at any moment just mustering the energy to make it to the next verse. Another song about two lovers torn apart by war, the first scene is of the pair walking alongside a river with the roses in full bloom. It is beautiful, yet they both know he'll be leaving for battle tomorrow. The soldier comforts his love by reminding her that he'll return when the roses bloom again. Next we see him he's in the heat of combat, gunshots are being fired from every side and there is nothing but chaos encircling him. He is hit with a bullet and shouts to his fellow soldiers, begging for someone to carry him to the river where the roses are in full bloom so he can say his last goodbyes to his true love. Despite being rose-filled this song never becomes rosy.

4 comments:

Ming said...

I'm fascinated with certain times in history, but have never been big on war movies themselves. I'll see them, but they focus on gore and bravado and overhyped heroism. I think that everyone who goes to war has someone they consider their hero for doing nothing more than keeping them sane while they were deployed.

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