“One Polaroid a Day” – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
(Words/music: Ted Leo, available on The Brutalist Bricks, Matador Records 2010)
It’s hard to listen to this song and not think about all of the people who spend entire rock shows snapping pictures on their cell phones. The closing couplet, “you kill the moment when you cling / lay down your ownership and sing” fits that interpretation perfectly. Still, a few other details point the song toward something more general and universal. Specifically, the phrase “discipline to let things play” stands out, as the act of letting something go, be it a moment passing without record or simply moving on without dwelling, takes a considerable amount of discipline. After all, “moving on” doesn’t mean moving for a while only to stop and return. This phrase, along with the “document decay” line near the song’s beginning, suggest that the song tackles more than putting one’s camera phone away and enjoying a band. Instead, it’s the struggle of letting things pass, whether it means capturing it for memories later or accepting circumstances beyond one’s control.
“Discipline” also fits the song’s arrangement as well. Appropriately, the song doesn’t rush its moment, instead trading the breakneck pace of other Brutalist Bricks songs and instead establishes a tight mid-tempo groove supported with organ and handclaps. Even Leo’s voice feels restrained as he drops an octave from his normal singing voice. I can’t think of any other times Leo sings in this register (and please correct me if I’m wrong), so it’s hard not to look at it as a deliberate choice even if he sings it in his “normal” singing voice when performing the song live. Perhaps it’s his way of ceding control of the song from his vocals to the instrumentation and letting his words seep in almost as an afterthought.
(There’s a remix of the song featuring The Spinanes’ Rebecca Gates that came out on Spanish label La Castanya’s vinyl pressing of the album. If you can point me toward that, I would be incredibly grateful!)
More on Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Allmusic | Amazon MP3 | Emusic | Last.fm