The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect

Review by Kate Erickson (Switch to

Thought I would do something on the album of the biweek -- "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect"-- before we get to the next one. Once again, I center on the lyrics. I don't have this album on CD, and so can't comment on the musical aspects coherently. Thematically, the album concerns human nature, but, then, so do most of TR's albums. Several of the songs are loosely connected by the personally internal depth of their messages, with the most obvious exception being "Emperor of the Highway." Others (Chant, Drive and Don't Hurt Yourself) appear to give advice that transcends mere survival technique.



Hideaway (an invitation and a request for intimacy)

This song lyric is consistent with TR-style, in that it deals with a more explicit subject than the nebulous 'love.' Using "hideaway' metaphorically for 'intimacy' and 'trust' heightens the feeling of being on the outside. The lyric also carries a gentle, non-threatening guilelessness that validates the sincerity of its persuasive appeal. And, as usual in TR lyrics, the focus changes from the other person's situation to the speaker's own similar one.

Influenza - (compares love/lust/attraction to an illness that makes one disregard caution and lose control of one's feelings)

This song imparts an internal process familiar to anyone who has gotten caught up in an unwise relationship against h/her better judgement. The realization of increasing involvement and accompanying invasion of one's mental order does, indeed, resemble infection by an unwanted foreign virus. Serenity is no longer possible while the fever rages.

Don't Hurt Yourself - (a warning about how anger can turn inward on you)

This song, at first glance, sounds like the aftermath of a lover's spat, but is actually unsentimental yet altruistic advice given an adversary of either gender concerning the dangers of harboring anger.

There Goes Your Baybay - (Can't see the forest for the trees song--you strive for material success to make someone you love happy, then that someone leaves because you were too centered on material success)

Also an "I thought it wouldn't happen to me" song.

Tin Soldier - (A plea to have love affirmed in a relationship; not written by TR)

The speaker admits to a simplistic, rather helpless desire to know that his love is returned. The tension is in conflicting feelings of child-like needs and mature emotion. As in "Hideaway," the speaker is without guile.

Emperor Of The Highway - (an allegorical song about power and authority)

This is an interesting contrast of powerholder vs. rebel/revolutionary/nonconformist/iconoclast. Cars have long been recognized by psychologists as objects/symbols of power, a fact which makes driving perilous at times. But in this song, the allegory is revealed when a one-to-one questioning of the use of power ("Any real man would drive a stick shift") elicits a confident statement of authoritative nepotistic support (For my uncle is the Duke of the State Police). The threat of retaliatory violence by the rebel (Cut me off again and I will punch your lights out) is countered with a presumably superior and decidedly legal (if a bit despotic) force (And he will place his Royal Boot upon your Ass). The rebel promises that there will be other days (and perhaps other ways?), and the power holder confidently cruises on. Although this song can be comfortably taken at face value, it is a snapshot that fits countless confrontations between authority and rebels. What it points out more fundamentally are facets of basic human nature which permeate every level of society, from the family and workplace to government.

Bang The Drum All Day - (I want to do what makes me happy and what I am good at)

Drive - (examples of reactive living and an exhortation to be proactive with your life)

Chant - (an encouragement to elevate thoughts and chant for love/peace in the world in any way you know how)

Jeez, they're lobbing hot ones into Iraq again! Chant, people, chant!

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