I often bang on about songs building tension; here that shall be mostly implicit. Confide in Me begins ponderously, almost coming to a halt twice in the first minute. In the first prelude, the sweeping strings and vocals lend an air of tragedy, and the minor-key piano suggests drama. The sound of distorted voices, as if coming over a radio, suggests some sort of concealment or conspiracy, especially since it's so quiet, hardly noticeable. The whole thing feels nocturnal.
After the first pause the second prelude uses none of the same instrumental pieces. Here the piano is major-key, there's an electric guitar flourish in the background, and although the muted voices remain, they no longer sound sinister – more like a conversation. (You can see where this is going, can't you?) This bit sounds like a dawn to the first prelude's night. Or perhaps each is the introduction of a character, the first the confider, the second the confidant. (It's all very GCSE English.)
The intro-proper begins after the other pause and the main string loop begins, full of anticipation. The drumbeat kicks in and flecks of detuned, slightly Asian-sounding plucked strings appear. The verses' vocals are sung almost in a whisper, growing to a sweeping, strings-like, almost operatic legato for the chorus.
As the song progresses, chanting of “confide in me”, “and then you'll see” and some other lyric I can't make out is added to the chorus parts, bringing extra urgency with it. Those flecks of plucked strings increase to a full-blown instrumental part, almost taking the lead towards the end.
Throughout the song there are spots of other sounds; in the verses, more noticeable in the second, there are little whirs and clunks of distortion that remind me of The Blue Room EP. There's even a bit of funk guitar under the Asianesque string solo after the second chorus. And at times the electric guitar hints at Hendrixianism (I just made that word up now – good, isn't it?). The whole song is very much a layered piece.
In the last minute-and-a-half, the plucked strings' repetitious, urgent pseudo–ad libbing (while slightly gratuitous); the main string loop's insistent repetition; the legato lead vocal; and the background chanting; all combine to build tension towards the end, when all the instrumentation comes to a head and drops, leaving the lead vocal to close the song.
Yes, I am recommending a Kylie Minogue song. If you download one track last week... Wait a sec – I did that joke last time.
Colours is quite typical of Editors. It begins with drums and several guitars forming a driving rhythm and a repeating riff, with a little bit of a screech at the end. Few notes are used and small sections are repeated, hammering them into the listener.
The vocals are typically minimal – few and repeated. And the lyrics are also quite typical – “You mean a lot to me, you've got a heart of gold” and “You are the colour, my dear” are the sort of nonsense Tom Smith often comes out with, to great effect.
So the first two minutes proceed pretty much like any other Editors song. Then after the brief pause at the end of the second chorus, the driving rhythm disappears. The repeating riff that replaces it verges on the socks-off-knockingly good. It's particularly long among Editors riffs, and its 3-3-3-3-2-2 rhythm lends it a striking complexity. The drumming that backs it is minimalistic but distinctive.
Not to dwell on this wonder-riff for too long, after two iterations Tom's vocals re-emerge, overlaying it with “Fill your life with something else, baby”. The two parts carry the song whilst the bass, drums and vocals all gradually intensify. Half a minute before the end, the wonder-riff makes way for a good old-fashioned cymbal-thrashing, still in 3-3-3-3-2-2 rhythm. It and the vocals take the song to its abrupt conclusion.
Even though there's such a schism between its two halves, somehow it all still holds together as one song. Don't ask me how.
If you download two tracks this week, make them Confide In Me and Colours. Stay tuned.