Canned Applause

I like to name things as quickly as possible. Even a tiny snippet of a melodic idea or an eight bar drum loop gets a working name as soon as it’s saved to disk. Names make things Craig "Yinser" Boltonreal. I remember working with someone who just identified his song ideas by the date on which he was inspired to start working on them. I’ve never understood that. A name, even a silly temporary working name, is important. How can you get excited about a song called “11-15-08 Song?” You can’t.

Of course, the names usually change once I start writing actual lyrics. “Feeling Filthy” becomes “Bad At Math”. “Backing Off From Backing Up” becomes “It Don’t Matter.” Sometimes though, the working name sticks and the title points in the direction of the subject matter for the lyrics. “Canned Applause” is just such a song. Craig (see picture) came up with a bass line. I recorded it into Ableton Live, looped it about four thousand times and came up with the words below.


Canned Applause

Music C. Bolton, Lyrics Pickabar Copyright 2008

Old photographs
always stay the same
A cozy slice of time
bottled up in a frame

but they’re unreliable
like memories in your brain
they tell the kind of lies
that might drive you quite insane

Memories of the past
so gloriously false
like your drunken uncle
who stumbles and then falls

hyperbole is dangerous
false praise should give you pause
because it turns to slander
don’t be damned by canned applause

Don’t be – damned by canned applause!
Don’t be – blinded pull away the gauze!
Don’t let – delusion spoil your view!
Don’t let – your ego play tricks on you!

Stories of the past,
yeah we all enjoy,
but now is not the time
for men to act like little boys

When we think about the past
we only see the best,
(we) forget about the struggle
and forget all of the stress.

The grass is always greener,
but real life is multi-hued,
it’s fun to dwell on fantasy,
but reality intrudes.

So let’s embrace reality,
let’s see things as they are,
let’s take off all the makeup
and make peace with all the scars.


Friendships from the past
you keep but don’t know why,
like zombies in B movies
they refuse to die.

You’ve got nothing in common,
avoid them when you can,
nostalgia is the only thing
that draws you back again.

You talk about the past,
eat your fill of yesterday,
but when you’ve had your fill
you’ve got nothing else to say

Friendship means spending time,
it’s both a means and end,
so if you’ve got no time,
then you’re no longer friends.


[Download MP3]

One of the most exciting parts of song writing, or any kind of art really, is the unexpected thoughts that pop out of your subconscious. How did the phrase “canned applause” get me thinking about old pictures locked in frames? How did that become a metaphor on the idealization of the past that we’re all sometimes guilty of? Your guess is as good as mine. The song makes a good point, though. It’s silly to let unrealistic positive memories of past good times get in the way of the good times we could be having now. I have to remind myself of that all of the time, to be honest. It seems to be one of the pitfalls of getting older.

p.s. Don’t steal those abandoned song names, I’ll probably recycle them at some point.

p.p.s. I’ve got comments again (yay Disqus!), please use them.