A Deconstruction of Alt-J’s “Chicago”

Recently I wrote about the trademarks of the classic “bad song”, where “bad” meant generic and totally forgettable. In that case it meant The disposable, lazy, often single-note hook repeated 4 times over a bland chord progression.

But of course it’s not that simple anymore. Over the past decade artists have developed new ways to make their songs bad. A bad chorus is too straightforward – bands these days absolutely love to craft a song with potential that falls apart. These are the truly horrendous songs, giving the listener hope before snatching it away with distorted instrumentation, a drumless chorus, or improper song structure.

Alt-J have chosen to go with the latter for the inexplicably bad “Chicago”, off their new album The Dream. It is so incredibly bad that the only purpose it serves is being the ideal example of artsy pretentiousness. I paid $1.29 for this mess, so the very least I should get in return is to give it the scorn it deserves.

Allow me to systematically and objectively pick this mess apart to demonstrate how bad it is.

The song begins as a pastoral piece, with wispy vocals backed by gently picked electric guitar and an organ arpeggio. After barely a verse, the entire song fades away at around 55 seconds and is replaced with a more sinister guitar in a totally different key.

A simple bass drum beat and pizzicato strings drive the song forward, with the odd percussive hits implying some rising action. The listener is led to believe that this is the first real verse of the song, and the delicate intro was just that – a prelude. At 2:26 an ominous choir introduces the second verse, a technique that is typically used in songs to tease a similar introduction of the upcoming chorus. But there is no chorus. There’s barely a second verse.

After a few lines a piano arpeggio comes in and two lines from the intro are repeated, then the piano stops and there’s nothing for 11 seconds. The piano fades out and the song is over.

What is the point of this song? It’s not good for anything. There’s no hook, there’s no chorus, there’s no centre holding it together. It’s a few completely disparate elements barely stitched together.

I can see someone going over each of my point and attempting to refute them one by one but I’m fairly certain you can’t argue that this song has any sort of merit. There is no logical way to present this as anything other than some sort of misguided attempt at being “complex”.


Author: D-Man

Hey, I don't know what to say. Ok, bye.

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