Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Certain Songs #1532: Pete Yorn – “Life on a Chain” | Medialoper

Album: musicforthemorningafter
Year: 2001

No one remembers this now, but there was a shitton of hype around Pete Yorn when his debut album, musicforthemorningafter came out in early 2001. With the nation still reeling around the contested Presidential Election of 2000, musicforthemorningafter was what brought us all together.

OK, that’s not what really happened: at least partially because his brother was — and still is — a major talent manager, a lot of folks automatically dismissed him, and others weren’t interested because his musicforthemorningafter came out on Columbia and not some hip indie label.

But there were others of us who fell deeply in love with it. It was definitely a singer-songwriter album, but the production was more kitchen sink, and it reminded me of records like Murmur and — especially — Exile in Guyville.

That it shared some DNA with the sainted Guyville wasn’t terribly surprising, as the producer was a guy named Brad Wood, who helped Liz Phair find organic full-band arrangements for her girlysound tapes, and seems to have done the same for Yorn.

And so the first 30 or so seconds of the opening track, “Life on a Chain” sound like you’ve caught a cool song on the radio, but you haven’t quite got the frequency tuned in properly, or maybe you’ve somehow caught a broadcast from 1965.

I live on a chain and you share the same last name
As a joke, I sent a bottle of whiskey,
As you choked, you said it made you feel dirty

And then, suddenly you’ve tuned the station in properly and it’s also the year 2001, and the full song explodes into technicolor.

And I was waiting over here for life to begin
I was looking for the new thing
And you were the sunshine heading my front line
I was alone, you were just around the corner from me

With a jangly guitar playing a Chuck Berry riff, a warbling synth, a random harmonica, and even a cool little bass solo, “Life on a Chain” might have been a hit a decade previously — or it might not have — but instead, it got a little bit of radio play, but probably where people heard it the most was in the various films and TV shows it got placed over the next couple of years.

And in fact, that’s probably why, while musicforthemorningafter never even cracked the Billboard Top 100 albums chart — peaking at 111 — it did eventually go gold, and according to Wikipedia, is still his best-selling album, despite every other one charting much higher.

“Life on a Chain” official video

“Life on a Chain” live acoustic, 2009

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