March 22, 2011

Black Holes and Revelations, A Stellar Muse Album [review by starlight]

Our hopes and expectations/Black holes and revelations

I am in no way qualified to review music. Sure, I've been listening to the stuff for the greater part of 22 years, but I am not a musician. I can't comment on the subtleties and complexities of texture, or the talent required to compose and play these songs. But I've been wanting to discuss Black Holes and Revelations on my blog for some time. It has some very interesting speculative aspects to it, and I'd like to recommend this record to anyone who likes new prog rock... or just music at all. I think it's really accessible to anyone. Even if pop music is your thing, songs like Starlight will catch your attention.

Far away/This ship is taking me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care /if I live or die

"Starlight" is about chasing after something important, even if it means leaving everything else behind. It sounds like a pretty sad theme, and there are some lyrics suggesting loneliness or regret, but I don't think I would be alone in saying the song is upbeat and even optimistic. Even though the lyrics recognize a loss, the music contrasts to this and seem to focus on the happiness that comes from someone "electrify[ing]" your life. The speaker seems to relate to "All the souls that would die just to feel alive" - that is, to those who would give up everything for whatever makes them happiest. Now, "You'd think the people would have had enough of silly love songs," - Paul McCartney, but this does seem to be a love song at heart, because the speaker says "I will be chasing your starlight/Until the end of my life" and "Hold you in my arms/I just wanted to/Hold you in my arms" The thing that he is chasing and giving up everything for is probably a pretty lady.

"Take a Bow" is another interesting song on this album, which has an overarching theme of revolution. It definitely shows some dissatisfaction with a political leader, which turns to violence in "Knights of Cydonia".The lyrics are pretty straightforward in this case, but none the less interesting. "And Spell, cast a spell/Cast a spell on the country you run." I think the clear lyrics actually add a lot to the meaning, where usually more complex or opaque lyrics would create depth. The clarity aids to the accusation, showing that the speaker knows exactly what is going on. It's a really eerie effect: "Our freedom is consuming itself/What we will become is contrary to what we want/Take a bow."

Everyone's favourite song, thanks to Guitar Hero 3, is "Knights of Cydonia". Lyrically, this song is brief, but hard-hitting. We're riding to rebellion here, on Mars. Cydonia is what we've named the region of Mars where scientists believe there may have once been an ocean bed, and even life. Here's the first stanza:

Come ride with me through the veils of history,
I'll show you a God falls asleep on the job,
How can we win when fools can be kings?
Don't waste your time or time will waste you

Again, the metaphor isn't hard to miss, but doesn't make it any less effective. This is accusatory and motivational. We have a lot of people in these four lines: I, you, a God, fools and kings. All of these are subjects to verbs somewhere or other, giving the responsibility for what is going on to everyone. Only the "I" here is anywhere near blameless, because his action is to show the truth to "you". God is falling asleep on the job, fools are trying to be kings, we're not winning and you're wasting time. That's a whole lot of accusation for one stanza, and it ends with a warning not to waste time. We also start and end with imperative commands: "Come ride with me" and "Don't waste your time". A lot of thought went into lines that are at first glance very straightforward.

Black Holes and Revelations is a product of some beautiful speculative lyrics, reflecting on the individual and the masses, and on responsibility. The themes and images used give it a science fiction feel, so I wouldn't hold back from saying the album has elements of sci-fi. As I said before, I highly recommend this album, regardless of music taste. But then, I'm not a music authority. I'm just an English major.

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