.. e large city that keeps the country in the game on a universal level. Even though the large technology-based city might lose something as far as nature is concerned- replacing trees with buildings and lakes with parking lots- it still holds an extremely important position as far as progress is concerned. And although the people within that city may have to suffer from the strains of anonymity, they can still take at least some solace knowing that they are working for the progress of the country- even though such a lifestyle may, at times, be somewhat lonely and autonomous. Cast in this unlikely role Ill-equipped to act With insufficient tact One must put up barriers To keep oneself intact.
Here the songwriter exhibits his understanding of the autonomous and individualistic lifestyle of the large city. He believes that you almost have to be alone to succeed or survive within that environment. Or, if not alone, you should at least protect yourself by putting up barriers to keep yourself together. But even though Neil Peart understood the way one must be prepared to live in a major city, he was also fully aware of the effects such a life could have on the individual. He understands that no matter how accustomed you are to a certain lifestyle it can still have negative side effects this very lifestyle can have. The office door closed early The hidden bottle came out.
The salesman turned to close the blinds. A little slow now, a little stout. But he’s still heading down those tracks Any day now for sure. Another day as drab as today Is more than a man can endure. Within these lyrics, taken from Rush’s song Middletown Dreams, we are able to see the effects the large city can have on the population.
We are given the image of a businessman who drinks at work and grows slow and stout because of his daily routine. He constantly plans to get out of town; but the reader or listener knows that he never will based on the conversational tone Peart uses when he says any day now for sure. It’s as if the character in the song is attempting to convince himself of something he knows will likely never happen. All in all life in the big city is portrayed as being one of great purpose and mission; but one with little enjoyment for the natural things in life- the simple things. On one level it is looked upon as a sad and lonely existence, but from an opposing angle it could be looked upon as the reason for our country’s ability to remain competitive in an overly aggressive world. Contrasting the industry-based hustle and bustle of a city like Toronto we will now look to Canada’s East coast where the people seem to have embraced an opposing lifestyle.
It seems that the further east one moves through Canada the more relaxed the lifestyle becomes. Gone are the landscapes cluttered with buildings; they have been replaced by landscapes littered only with trees, lakes and open sky. It is this major change in the scenery that seems to have had the most effective outcome on Canada’s East coat. This change of scenery not only effects the landscape of the area it has a direct impact on the music created in that area. Whereas Rush was discussed as being a band with all of the clang and clutter of a downtown Toronto street at five o’clock, Newfoundland’s Great Big Sea are able to convey the light-hearted, personal and friendly way of life enjoyed in the east.
Though generally known as being one part of Canada’s hinterland and suffering province-wide problems with unemployment due to the declining fisheries industry, Newfoundland is somehow still able to produce music that attempts to see the silver lining around the cloud that sometimes seems to hang above the province. Great Big Sea can be classified as a classical East coast band as they try and work the sound of their homeland into each and every song. Even though their songs are often fast-paced they are not a rock band- far from it, actually. Their sound is birthed from the very land that surrounds them, a land that seems to have little to do with modern technology. Therefore Great Big Sea are mainly an acoustic band; putting aside wailing guitars, heavy drums and synthesizers in favor of acoustic guitars, whistles, and traditional Celtic sounds. The lyrics to their songs also live and breath as a tribute to the area from where they came.
I’ve got a smile on my face I’ve got four walls around me. The sun in the sky The water surrounds me. I’ll win now but sometimes I’ll lose I’ve been battered but I’ll never bruise. It’s not so bad. Taken from their song Ordinary Day, these lyrics summarize all that Great Big Sea, the province of Newfoundland and the East Coast represent. The sound of the song is as light-hearted and whimsical as the lyrics.
This type of song not only reflects the type of band Great Big Sea is, it also works as an accurate reflection of the kind of people who live in this area. The type of attitude conveyed in the song matches the type of attitude you would have to have if you lived in Newfoundland where jobs were scarce. The narrator of the song is telling the listeners to be glad for what they have (four walls around them) and to enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings (sun, sky and water). The narrator believes that without the ability to appreciate these things the people who live in that area would begin to feel those same four walls start to close in on them. It is for this reason that they have to hold their heads up and not let their situation effect the way the feel.
The narrator is telling them that if they have faith in their natural surroundings they will eventually win what they have been deserved of for so long. It’s a beautiful day But there’s always some sorrow. It’s a double-edged knife But there’s always tomorrow. It’s up to you now If you sink or you swim. Keep the faith And your ship will come in.
Once again, as with Rush, Great Big Sea have acknowledged the duality of their location. The double-edged knife they refer to is a metaphor that could be utilized by almost any given sea in any given geographic location. The last band that will be discussed with the confines of this short essay is Vancouver, British Columbia’s She Stole My Beer. However, whereas both Rush and Great Big Sea were analyzed for both their lyrical content and sound, it seems that bands from the West Coast of Canada are best analyzed based solely on sound. Many bands from the west tend to use their lyrics to look within themselves for some kind of answer to a higher question, ignoring what is the earmark of their location- nature. The West coast is very likely the most picturesque and scenic area in Canada, yet most bands from the area seem to set it aside in place of heavy contemplation and over-symbolic personal insight.
However, what they lack in lyrical content they more than make up for in musicianship. Much like the atmosphere and attitude in the west, the music these bands make is almost always listenable and, for lack of a better term, friendly. Much like the people of the west, the music composed seems, whether acoustic or electric, to have an air of approachability to it. She Stole My Beer work as an excellent example of this as their music is able to hold onto a pleasant tone no matter what type of instruments they are playing. Like the area surrounding them they are able to be as loud as a rushing river or as hushed and relaxed as a mountain’s peak without ever making either of the two seem out of place or ineffective.
Even though what they are singing about can oftentimes become confusing, the sound surrounding those lyrics is one born of the very area that they are from. Bands from the West coast of Canada are somehow able to convey more images and feelings with their music than they are with the words within it. As can be noted from the information herein, each area discussed has its own unique and distinct purpose. Whether it be Rush’s intense confusing clang representing the industry/technology-laden area of Toronto and other large cities, Great Big Sea’s seemingly constant head-held-high homage to the East coast and it’s surrounding natural beauty, or She Stole My Beer’s easy-going musicianship reflecting the West coast, it becomes obvious just how severe an impact a band or songwriter’s geographical location has on the work that they produce. And even though each band from these three areas assumedly has it’s own individual sound and style they are all drawn toward their personal surroundings in their own way, whether it be the people or the landscape, and allow it to seep through into the music they create.