Most of the cd reviews I write, I tend to go song by song and give impressions of each tune, as well as an overall album feel… the thing about Sam Roberts and his music is that the tunes are very much open to interpretation by the listener.. which is why I love listening to them so much. It’s nearly impossible (for me) to try and break this album down song by song but here goes:
Collider is very much a concept album – each song fits with the ones it’s nestled in-between, and as a body of collective work they give me an overall feel or impression.. almost like watching a movie or reading a book.. more like a book actually, with individual chapters and characters where things happen independently, but are intertwined throughout the story line.
This album has a definite beginning with The Last Crusade starting it out fresh and giving the impression that this will be a bluesy rock sort of experience, with sax and a swing sort of up-beat. A little more serious introspection is going on in this song than the tune would have you think. Elements of war, spirituality and a sense of history are what hit me in this tune.
Without a Map changes tempos to a smoother more laid back groove but again the lyrics are not what the groove would have you imagine – “I surrender to the very mention of you, I hope I get to see you again… Honey don’t point that gun at me, you know I only want to be your friend” – perhaps tongue in cheek but more like ironic reflection of things not going the way one thought they would go. Again elements of spirituality, conflict and remembrance.
Let it In grooves with an almost techno, dance beat … it has a sexy sort of circular Pop flair to it but at the same time is almost Reggae with the trumpets and percussion that chimes in periodically. This is the one song on the album that I just don’t ‘get’ yet in terms of lyrics but I like the sound of it and it will grow on me until I do get it.
Graveyard Shift – this song is fast becoming my favorite off the album. Clear vocals in the intro and the rest of the band forceful but not overpowering… a song about working the graveyard shift but with an old world feel of civil war soldiers and being in the trenches. Again the underlying theme of spirituality and running out of time. “I was born on a precipice between Salvation and the great abyss…. time to dig down and see what side you’re on.. every sundown you gotta be reborn.”
No Arrows – A song of longing, of love that hasn’t worked out even though both people are hanging on to it. Bittersweet even a little mournful but also accepting of the circumstances. Soldiering on despite the hardship. No Arrows to me means nobody is laying blame – no fighting over who’s fault, who’s right or wrong.. just a realization that this is how it is.
Longitude – I think this is the first time I remember Sam having a female singer on a song – Elizabeth Powell’s voice blends beautifully with Sam’s vocals on this song.. “looking for a way out.. even the closest stars are still so far.” I think its a song about the state of the human race (although it could pertain to a couple on the outs).. humanity is falling apart here on earth and wants to get away but there is no way yet to do that.
Streets of Heaven – “hear the Angel calling, from the Streets of Heaven, you go to work in the morning…. you’re just a drop in the ocean.” A broad generalization that you’re just one of many that make this world what it is, and that people are just people with the same goals and dreams and aspirations and problems.
Sangfroid – faster beat than the previous two songs and a song completely about war, turmoil and strife. Brings to mind CNN and their ‘situation’ room and trying to put a positive spin on the war. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), landmines, the soldiers coming home (or not) – “Sangfroid at the right time” – the ability to remain calm in a dangerous or difficult situation.
Twist the Knife – a song about love gone bad! Infidelity perhaps, a woman who has cheated and left, and now wants to return to the relationship and the home (and is locked out!). Forgiveness is not an option as the knife is twisted yet again in the heart of the one wronged.
I Feel You – heavy, slow, deliberate musically… trudging and gloomy to some degree but intriguing as to where it’s going to go.. the music mimics the lyrics to perfection: ebb and flow, love is war, all or nothing – extreme opposites of each. The song morphs into a new sort of song after the first verse… more upbeat in tone and tempo. The lyrics in the chorus are identical but its snappier and has a definite hook that makes you want to tap your foot or sing along. Again the song can be interpreted in a broad sense of worldly view about war and peace, or in a more intimate perspective of a personal relationship.
The Band vs The World – I love the start of this song.. guitar picking and nothing else until the drums and bass kick in.The song has a dreamy quality to it that makes me want to sit back with eyes closed and just let my imagination run rampant.. I love the chorus… the melodies of the various band members lending their harmonies is superb. The song itself is so wide open to interpretation but it gives me visions of sitting out on my stoop watching a thunderstorm.. one line at the end stands out for me: “The more you know the less you grow.”
Partition Blues – acoustic guitar is a welcome change after the sonic symphony of the previous song. An intensely personal song? Or a broad generalization? There is a mix of melancholy as well as hope in this song… “what did we learn between the cradle and the grave? When they say love is the great divide I hope we make it to the other side.” -“I hope we make it” can be interpreted both ways: as in hope, hopeful, hope filled? or as in ‘i dont think its working -do we have any hope if this lasting? I choose the hope, not the melancholy.
Tractor Beam Blues -“you’re not alone I’ll be waiting for you at the other end.. is hope enough? (yes it is), is love enough? (yes it is).” This song is the perfectly fitted ending to the album – a song about love, but rather than questioning it, or wondering why it’s not working, this song is confirming that love is indeed enough to get us by, that Hope is the answer and things will get better. I love how this song ends; as if the very song itself has collided with that celestial body and is gone in a wreck of atoms and static and noise.
This album is one that will take more than one listen in order for you to hear things.. it will grow on you more and more over time – and one day it will ‘click’ and you will love it to death and then realize that you have already listened to it 100 times to get to that point – which means you already did love it to death. The overall concept of this album can be taken at its base level – relationships and loves lost and won – or it can be interpreted in a broader spectrum. There is much here about the state of the world in general, much about the wars going on, and about spiritual things too… the human race in a sound byte perhaps.. I choose to go with the big picture and see the album as a commentary on the human race. And its a pretty introspective, questioning, hard edged look at where we are now. And yes I’ve listened to this album 5 times so far, and yes I love it.
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