Sunday, June 11, 2006

17 Berlin (1999) – My Favorite

Amid a brash effluence of distortion, an advancing crowd marches in pandemonium to topple the Berlin wall. In a city with a history of disunion, every day is filled with toil; every evening, replete with possibilities. Songwriter extraordinaire Michael Grace bestowed upon “17 Berlin” perhaps the most economical stanza in musical history, pithily encompassing the zeitgeist of youth in three sentences: “My boyfriend’s in the stairwell. He looks just like James Dean. And nothing else matters when you’re seventeen.” Grace frames life through the perspective of a cineaste, ascribing epic drama to the mundane, infusing momentous overtones even in negative implications: “And the world won’t end tonight on a black highway lit by neon lights.” He champions the plight of privileged adolescents and blue-collar misfits alike—existences infused with ennui, all seeking deliverance from their situational torpor.

The rhythmic brunt of “17 Berlin” falls upon drummer Todbot, who sends the lot skipping along to skittering palpitations. Meanwhile, bassist Gilbert Abad sounds intervals in measured tolls to anchor the meter upon which guitarist/co-songwriter Darren Amadio lays blankets of ringing sustain in the verse and writhing constellations in the chorus that pay homage to The Sundays’ David Gavurin. Together, they fashion a sprawling panorama of pococurantism. Grace’s presence on his chef-d’oeuvre is modest; he sprinkles occasional drops of piano and background vocals, an artist-as-curator content to supervise his creation from afar, stepping in only to touch up and embellish. Vocalist Andrea Vaughn’s voice is nonpareil, radiating in empyrean resonance to pierce through the iron curtain of boredom and apathy. Grace’s aphorism is revisited once more en route to oblivion: “My boyfriend’s in the driver’s seat. He drives just like James Dean. And nothing else matters when you’re seventeen.” The blithe conceit of youth, summed up so succinctly.

  • Listen to "17 Berlin" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "You Belong With Us" (1999) – My Favorite
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