Megan Slankard is a dramatist and playwright as a songwriter, a creator of characters and a keen listener to, and communicator of, their inner lives. Once again she takes us into the world of a complex character in her new song, the first released from her new album, “Running on Machinery”, the song titled “Bones Live Forever.”
Continuing from, and in a kind of contrast to, the song “The Last Thing You’ll Say” from her previous CD, “A Token of the Wreckage”, there is a mystery in this song; I believe that by the end of it, someone is dead, by drowning.
Happily, Megan’s fans (myself very much included) revel in the richness and complexity of her writing; she emphatically does not write love songs, and the pop gloss, some of the best pop ever made, in my opinion, on the previous CD is understood by fans as only part of who Megan Slankard is musically. This song is chordally spare and decidedly modal, its stripped-downness giving it extra power. The song has melodic and harmonic elements of field-hand work songs and chain-gang songs. Yet there is something else in the soundscape: A howling wall of noise throughout, which seems to me to represent the protagonist’s mental and emotional state during the song. It is reminiscent of the background sound in “The Last Thing You’ll Say”, which was, I think, the sound of the rushing blood in the head of the protagonist. Mere pop doesn’t do this. To the best of my current knowledge, Megan, and only Megan, gets these effects with her songs.
There is so much more to say but I will not yet say it here. The song is part of the new CD and I would want to hear it in the context of the rest of the album before completing my analysis (I am saying it is more forensic analysis than musical analysis, with me searching and researching the lyrics for clues to the plot. Murder or suicide? I don’t know yet!) but that’s the charm of releasing this one first: It is a harbinger of a new hard edge in Ms Slankard’s writing (her performances and the musical excellence of her band are a given) and a perfect inducement to buy the CD, with its included lyric sheet booklet, and to see the CD reveal show at the Great American Music Hall on Saturday, Oct. 18.