“Further into Songs” is a fairly new PHW feature that traces the roots and inspiration behind great songs directly from the artists themselves.
L.A. based singer/songwriter/producer David Shane Smith has been a PHW favorite pretty much as long as this blog has existed. His latest album is called Controls SM and it’s another avant-pop gem. One of the really great moments on it is the glitchy, increasingly frantic album closer “Benzene”, which is easily one of my favorite songs of the young 2011. Aided by an insistent, nervous beat, subtle strings, and some presumably heavy drugs, Smith spits his evocative, rapid-fire lines like Kid A all grown up and dealing with a few new issues. Listen as he talks about where the song came from:
A lot of conversation during the summer of 2010 revolved around the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Following the news is often a starting point for a lot of song ideas and the words I use in “Benzene” were developed around the idea of gases coming to the shore during that oil spill. Benzene is poisonous but is also a common cleaning product. The idea of cleaning products and their ingredients has always fascinated me because so much of our civilization would be impossible without these chemicals and at the same time we endanger the very ecosystem that supports us through their use. This is just a tiny and obvious observation but it provides the starting point for where I was going when I was thinking about this song.
I’d like to add that I never have a narrative position when writing song lyrics. My lyrics are a self indulgent act in which I try to lace my ideas about a vague mood or impression together into something loose and bendy. I just want them to swirl. Benzene is a perfect example of this approach. It’s also an example of recycling of my own ideas. I’m always writing about how our self destructive behavior is something that saves us from destruction. I think a lot of songwriters have these exact same approaches so I don’t consider them innovative.
MP3 :: Benzene
(from Control SM. Download here)