Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Geosong of the Week: The Sundowners' "San Andreas Fault"

Getting tired of that song title yet? Well, tough, because this isn't even close to the last one!

This week's song falls into a category that hasn't turned up yet in my song reviews: songs that use geological features and events as metaphors for other things, but don't actually focus on those events. The Sundowners' "San Andreas Fault" is probably the first song I found in this category (I think - I don't know the exact order in which I found these!), and I was actually kind of surprised that a song with such a title really has so little to do with earthquakes.

The metaphor here is of the San Andreas as a ticking time bomb - but not of the blow everything into smithereens type. I'm pretty certain that the songwriter was aware how the fault works, since the metaphor also involves pulling two people away from each other. Yes, we have a seismically-inclined failed relationship song here. The lyrics don't outright mention pulling apart, but the rest of the song makes it plenty clear that this is what's going on.

The Fault's name only comes up twice:
"Feels like I am standing on the San Andreas Fault. I believe it's only a matter of time. All you pushers and you shovers and you disenchanted lovers better take a number and move on down the line."
"Hello, operator, can you get me someplace else? Anywhere but here would be alright. It feels like we are standing on the San Andreas Fault, and you and I are running out of time."

Actually, "move on down the line" fits in nicely with the impression of strike-slip motion, but I'm sure the songwriter wasn't thinking that far into this!

The rest of the song describes the problems between the singer and his significant other, and what needs to happen in order for the relationship to work out. The significant other seems to be at fault here (hey - this song doesn't use that pun, so I had to get it in there somewhere!); s/he's apparently guilty of all kinds of lying and mistrust and afraid to sacrifice anything for the greater good of the relationship. The accumulation of stress seems like it will eventually snap the singer's patience just like it snaps a plate boundary. Good on him, I guess, that he wants to get out before there's an enormous surface rupture scar ripping his house and heart in half!

Reviews of the album this song is from, Strange Hours (2001), describe The Sundowners' style as a mixture of modern and classic rock, and lyrical all the way. I think that pretty much pegs it. There is nothing particularly special or outstanding about the style, but this song at least is pretty darn catchy. It has gotten itself firmly stuck in my head in the past, and it's an enjoyable enough song that I didn't mind.

Based on CD review sites (the band's own website doesn't seem to exist anymore, and I can't find anything on them past this CD, so I assume they broke up), The Sundowners are based in North Carolina, which is not a place that generally gets associated with earthquakes in any shape or form. The fact that they've chosen the San Andreas as an impulse for songwriting shows the extent of its infamy, and how it has wormed its way into popular culture as something big and dangerous and shaky. People may know that the San Andreas Fault is that earthquake thing, even if they haven't had a geology class (much like how the Richter Scale has become a popular metaphor/reference, even if people don't understand how it works). But then again, pop infamy could play into the misconception that the San Andreas is the only earthquake thing in the States, at least. And there are still all too many people in California (a good third of the class when I took Geo 1) that don't know what the fault really is.

The most likely thing is that I am reading too much into a catchy pop song. But is that not what I promised to do in these blog posts?

The Sundowners' Strange Hours on Rhapsody
I can't find the lyrics already typed out on teh intarwebz, but if people want it, I can transcribe.

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