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Adventures With Audacity: Full-Length “Talk of the Town”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 9, 2007


As I listen to more and more of The Pretenders’ stuff, I get further convinced that Chrissie Hynde was one of the greatest songwriters of the rock era. Not always perfect, but she wrote about a half-dozen of the catchiest, heartfelt and heartbreaking songs of the post-punk era, and never sounded like anything less than a rock star doing it. The craftsmanship on display in The Pretenders’ best work just stuns me, and there’s barely a single thing about the songs that I would change.

Which is why I find “Talk of the Town” so unbelievably frustrating. The song didn’t stand out to me too much the few times I’d heard it over the course of my life, until I listened to Pretenders II for the first time and it just blindsided me. Now I think it might be their second-best song (which, as was no doubt made clear by the first paragraph, is no small feat), a typically devestating tale of unrequited crushery complemented by James Honeyman-Scott’s gorgeous, breezy guitar lines and Farndon/Chambers’ tight rhythm playing, anchoring the song. For two and a half minutes, it’s about as sadly blissful as pop music gets.

And then, as the song gears up for chorus #2, it stops. Just stops. When I first heard it on XM, I thought the DJ had come in too early or missed a cue or something–there’s no way they’d just end the song like that, right as things were really getting good. Hardly the first pop song that I wish could’ve gone on longer–Dinosaur Jr.’s brilliant but abruptly over cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” comes to mind, as does my #88 song of all-time. But those guys always sort of felt like pranksters at heart, so it doesn’t seem quite so deceptive. The way Hynde sabotages her own mini-masterpiece, however, just feels like a betrayal.
I wasn’t optimistic about there being a 12″ version of this one, so instead I tried to see if I could just round it out myself. There’s nothing wrong with short pop songs, and I tend to really admire bands who can squeeze a great song into three minutes or less, but perfect pop songs need closure, and that’s what “Talk of the Town” lacks. So rather than make it into The Pretenders’ “Free Bird” or anything, my edits were very simple, and the finished product is only about a half-minute longer than the original song.

Basically, what I did is I took the song’s chorus-y part (“maybe tomorrow, maybe someday”), starting with “Like the talk of the town,” and pasted over Hynde’s final “who’s the talk of the town?” with it, giving the song the second chorus that it so richly deserves. Then I stole a little bit from the guitar riff that introduces the first verse, spliced it with the final bits of the original ending, and used that as a more fitting, less jarring way to close the song. I’m extremely proud of how the first (and biggest) edit turned out–I don’t think the change is even that noticeable, unless you’re intimately familiar with the original version–though I had a little trouble with the end part. You be the judge, I suppose.

It’s crazy to me that I even have the tools to make something like this (sort of) happen. Soon enough we won’t even need artists to sell us completed songs, we’ll just ask them for loose sketches and fill in the details as we see fit. Should be pretty awesome, I think.

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Adventures with Audacity: “The Connection is Made”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 13, 2007

Watch out, Go Home Productions

Thanks to the good people at the Sound Opinions Message Board for unwittingly turning me on to Audacity, a super-fine mp3 editing service that I’ve been playing with for the last day. Now, I’ve been craving something like this that I could fuck around with for some time, but it seemed like every program I downloaded either needed some protection code I didn’t have, or had some pointless fee attached to it, or just didn’t work right. But now, I have finally found the right digital scissors & paste I need to do things like isolate the intro to Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s “Fire” (‘coz let’s face it, the rest of the song–kind of underwhelming in comparison).

My second project of last evening was slightly more ambitious and considerably more time-consuming–I think it took maybe 6-7 hours total–but was probably even more gleeful. It’s a labor of love, certainly–whenever I can smell spring or summer coming up, my music listening almost reflexively regresses to 90s nostalgia, namely for the 90s alternative rock I cut my teeth on. This sensation has previously led me to design my four-disc ’92-’95 alt-rock mix What the World Needs Now in 2004 (which I’m actually still sort of proud of, though I must’ve really been hurting for material for disc four if I deigned The Connells’ “Slackjawed” worthy of inclusion), as well as Whatever, Dude, my seven-disc response mix to Rhino’s heartbreakingly lackluster seven-disc 90s set in 2005 (also pretty good, though a bit more of a mixed bag, and it turns out that I wasn’t quite ready to revisit The Vengaboys’ “We Like to Party” quite yet). I’m not sure what I did in 2006, I think I just listened to a bunch of Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. albums.

Anyway, in this same spirit, I present to you the first fruits of my Audacity labors–The Connection is Made.” It’s a rough assemblage of the intros to 35 of my favorite hits from the Alternative Nation, borne out of my attempt to prove that the intros to “Possum Kingdom” and “Santa Monica” would sound nifty mixed together. It’s kind of like a 90s alternative “Intro/Inspection,” except without all the cool beatmatching, layering, creativity and skill. You know how it is. Parts of it I’m kind of proud, though, even if there are definitely rough patches and transitions I couldn’t quite nail as well as I hoped I could. Could’ve done worse for a first time out.

For you alt-90s experts out there, see if you can name all 35 tracks–most are exceedingly obvious, but one or two might be kind of tricky. Get ’em all, and I owe you a coke, or at least front-row seats at the inevitable first DJ Stoopendous gig. Damn, I hope no one else has taken that name yet.

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