CitiZenNoir wrote:More on Word Selection.
Here's a few comments on them:
"Fantastic song. I don't think there is any great meaning here. It seems to me that Stipe is trying to create an atmospheric song filled with evocative southern images like tent crusades, old rail lines, church bells. I think the album's title says it all: "Fables of the Reconstruction". No deep meaning behind anything here just Stipes love affair with words and images which continued wholly on to Lifes Rich Pageant. I think he means the album to be like a tattered old book you pick up in a used bookshop. Interesting stories and great illustrations but most of the pages are missing. You have to fill in the blanks and will never have all the answers. Thing is, the mystery is more engaging than the whole story could ever be. This is a great song on a fantastic album."
That's a very interesting point. I tend to write stories whose meaning is pretty explicitly spelled out, but I'm fascinated by the skills of those who write in a more abstract way.
I bought a thick book of Bruce Springsteen songs a while back, partly to look at his lyrics. I'd always thought of him as a guy who tells straightforward stories in most of his songs. but I hadn't really caught all the words. So it was quite a surprise to discover that the particular ones I looked at weren't really laid out like some of the old folk songs, which often told clear and simple stories. Instead they seemed to create the story with a series of small scenes and images. It was very effective, but also left plenty of room for the listener to build their own interpretation. Further down the track are those whose words could mean just about anything and which seem more akin to Jackson Pollock flinging paint at canvas.
Sometimes the latter approach can produce something of lasting value and interest, but it can result in a lot of forgettable crap too. Balancing the words with the right music can make a huge difference as well, so there's never any danger of running out of things that can somehow take off and fly...