Ron Brown reviews Calum Baird's latest song, available here and in the Youtube clip below
When I first heard the opening lyrics to this song:
"Well it's 4am and I'm writing this song what could possibly go wrong?"
I have to admit to feeling this could go one way or the other and quietly praying the writer would pull it out of the bag. He had me at the end of the next line...
"It must have been just before two when I came up with the tu-u-une,"
...pulled off with a playful melisma over the turnaround of a slow-tempo, Beatle-esque chord sequence played on piano. I'm hooked now. There is humility in this music and I'm tickled. I think Calum Baird might have the human touch.
It takes skill to write thought-provoking, politically-themed songs that keep people listening and not switching off. This is a song that keeps you listening. Part of its charm is that it does not preach solutions to problems facing humanity but urges the listener to talk to others and find their own answers. The preamble to the serious stuff continues with:
"As I cross-examine my own head I think of all the stupid things I did and all the stupid things that I said I'd do
Well these thoughts come around at half past two."
Because, of course, the best time to pour over the meaning of life is the middle of the night during those precious hours when you need to sleep. I think we can all relate to that. We are treated to a few more words of endearing self-deprecation before the song starts delving deeper:
"My thoughts move on from mocking me towards wars, fascism and austerity"
Here, a cymbal roll introduces a nicely produced, crisp-sounding acoustic guitar to the texture, complimenting the lyrics:
"Now don't you dare drift off when I can't sleep."
Then follows a heartfelt appeal:
"It's time we talked about the need for peace
I know the hour is beyond late but these thoughts just can't wait."
Calum could easily launch into a polemic here but instead leaves the listener to ponder these words to the accompaniment of a very nice mellotron solo. No it's not a giant, heavy metal sci-fi hammer. Think the intro to "Strawberry Fields", if, like me, you had to ask.
The song is well-crafted. Musically, it feels like 4am - it rolls along sleepily and is pleasant on the ears. Lyrically, we are at least two-thirds in before the very first thought-provoking lines are dropped like a bit of a bombshell then we are left wanting more and obliged to mull them over during the instrumental. A slow and steady drum beat gives the song a slightly more rhythmic feel beyond the instrumental as the writer's thoughts gather pace around the major issues facing humanity, including social division, poverty and war. I suppose if the song is saying anything it is saying that if these are not thoughts that keep you awake at night then they should be. What will happen if we don't all at least think about these issues? I think there might be a call to arms in there somewhere too...
"As I look upon the first light of the sun I ask myself What Is To Be Done."
A 2023 nod to Lenin? I would recommend listening to the song, which is available on Calum's website, as well as on SoundCloud above and YouTube. Our movement needs cultural talent like Calum and we should do as much as we can to cultivate, support and promote it. The closing lyrics to the song say it all, really.
"Sleep only comes when you're at peace
When so much here is going on is it any wonder I'm writing this song."
Thanks for writing it, Calum. Now get some sleep!