On to the ninth track on Pop Trash, “Lady Xanax”. Nick wrote this song, and according to Katy on dd.com, “it is actually about someone he knows who represents spiraling into despair and unable to find any sense of purpose in her life”. The song is a ballad, some characterizing the song as having a “Led Zeppelin” feel. Let’s listen!
I love a song with layers of guitars, and Lady Xanax delivers! I really enjoy the richness and warmth of the acoustic guitar track at the beginning, and then I get just a hint of the electric guitar as it plays an accompanying line or two as the verse moves on. The word I’d use for this song is texture, and there’s plenty of it through the layering, and changes in style. As we head into the chorus, the lead electric takes over, and what was once ballad turns to a much heavier rock tune, then fades back to ballad during the second chorus. I really like the way the song changes and takes the listener on a journey. While many people suggest the song reminds them of Led Zeppelin, and I can certainly hear that—I’d suggest Pink Floyd “Comfortably Numb” as a possible influence as well. I like the slightly “out there” effects that the synthesizer brings, particularly during the last minute of the song. Rather than being a distraction, it adds to the spiraling effect of the song. The drums are solid, and I love the strength of their attack as that second chorus opens. I can hear the expertise of Warren, without his completely taking over the entire direction of the song – acting more as a team player than solo artist appearing with the band.
Vocally, I appreciate the softness of Simon’s vocals as the song opens. He does a fantastic job of going from ballad to rock, and the listener can hear the strength of his voice. I like the effect of how his voice is brought forward in the verses, but then the music volume is brought way up during the chorus to match the volume of his voice. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest songs on the album. While it is clear they are missing the quality of a certain bass player, it isn’t he difficult to hear the evolution of the band as a three piece in this song, as though they were finally getting comfortable in their own “skin”. I know that Simon did not do the writing for this song, and had difficulty during this period in the band’s career, but it isn’t not clearly evident here. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the most recent line-up had found their groove, gotten some traction, and was on their way.
This is an interesting song to review. In some ways, it feels to me like at least two very different songs merged into one. There is the ballad part that goes along with the verse then there is the more electric part that accompanies the chorus. I could probably even add the last minute or so as even another song, if I wanted. Having two or three songs together is a pretty genius move for a song that tackles someone struggling with a mental illness. I’m sure “Lady Xanax” would acknowledge that emotions can be all over the place even within one day so the fact that the song does that makes sense. Now, then, the next question is, “Does each of these parts of songs work?”
The song opens with a very ballad feel. Rhonda mentioned in the opening paragraph to this blog post that some say that it has a Led Zeppelin feel. I can agree with that. Musically, I think the acoustic guitar creates a real beautiful atmosphere. The lyrics are pretty obvious and filled the pain that one might expect with a song about a prescription medication for mental illness. In this case, it describes someone who is feeling the emptiness of depression while still forcing herself to go out and be social. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of really clear and obvious lyrics but they work in this case. My one criticism is Simon’s vocals. For some reason, to me, they just feel too forced. I struggle to hear the message of the verse and that takes away the potential power of the song.
The chorus, on the other hand, shines in a different way. The guitar part here really works for me and grabs me, emotionally. More genius than that is the way that the lyrics seem to change from what Lady is going through internally in the first verse to how everyone else is seeing her in the rest of the song. Fascinating. Vocally, the chorus works for me and feels much more natural than the first verse did for me. Again, maybe that is intentional with the slight shift in focus, lyrically.
Then, as the song begins to move towards the end, the effects become more prominent until the song slowly fades. I wonder what the message was to that musical shift. With the lyrics of “Lady Xanax, sleep well tonight,” could it be a wish for peace?
Overall, this is one of those songs that I feel it necessary to judge on two levels. Is the song genius? Absolutely, especially for the chosen topic. Is it one that I choose to listen to much? Not really. The vocals for the first verse are not my favorite and the topic is tough to take, especially for me, personally.